Doyen of Kerala

by Jacob Matthan


  1. Milestones
  2. Life sketch
  3. Biographical sketch
  4. Addition by the Editor to the above
  5. Family tree covering 7 generations
  6. List of (English) reference books

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Read Findians Briefings - Forthright Fortnightly From Finland

We are fortunate to have a rare, unusual picture of KCMM in Western attire before the marriage of his daughter, Mariakutty, in 1934. It has been scanned for us by his great-grandson-in-law, a Finn, Tony Manninen - Thanks Tony.

KCMM dressed in his Sunday Best


  1. Milestones

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  2. Life sketch


    Kerala is not a city. It is a State. Many consider it as one long village. It is the land of waving palms, beautiful beaches, lovely backwaters, high mountains, the boat races, spices, and all the beauty that one desires. The people are the most literate and politically conscious in India. If they do not like the policies of the Government, they will throw it out quickly by methods which they have perfected over time. It was the first State in the world which democratically elected a Communist Government to power in 1957.

    The people of Kerala are among the most enterprising in the world. One finds them everywhere. The enterprising Keralite, who may be Christian, Muslim or Hindu, is everywhere - at the foothills of the Himalayas and even in the high tech town of Oulu, just south of the Arctic Circle in the Finland. :-)

    Every inch of free land in Kerala is intensively utilised to grow a variety of crops, dominated by the staple foods of the local people - rice and bananas. There are several tens of different varieties of the banana, some which are fruits and others which are vegetables that have to be cooked to be edible. Tea is traded at Cochin, coffee finds its way out to the world from this city, as do chilli, cardamom, cashew nut, and copra. Kerala is also the home of the rubber plantation industry. The farmers tend to experiment and have grown papaya, cocao, palm oil and various other trees to get a better yield out of their small-holdings.

    Ancient churches, temples, synagogues and mosques, the tomb of Vasco da Gama, teak and rosewood timber yards, and wild life, are only a few of the attractions which draw the large number of tourists to Kerala.

    It was difficult to find poverty among the people of Kerala. The majority of the population own their small plots of land, not bought on borrowed money, as in most western economies, they work hard, they are politically conscious, they read more than one newspaper, and they lead a life close to nature. In Kerala lies the possible secret of a future India, at peace with nature and ancient and modern Indian civilisation.

    Written Media in India

    1980 marked the bicentenary of Indian journalism. The first newspaper on modern lines appeared in Calcutta on the 27th of January 1780. It was called the "BENGAL GAZETTE" and was published by an Englishman. It was an outspoken political and commercial weekly. It displeased the officials and was shut down within a year.

    The "INDIAN GAZETTE" started the same year but played safe. The "CALCUTTA GAZETTE" appeared in 1874. Other journals that followed were the "CALCUTTA CHRONICLE" (1875), the "MADRAS COURIER" (1875) and the "BOMBAY HERALD" (1879), all of which were careful not to offend the Government. These papers were run by British resident in India in the English language for their fellow countrymen living in India.

    There are presently over 40 newspapers in India which are centenarians. The oldest surviving vernacular daily called "BOMBAY SAMACHAR" is published in the Gujarati language. It was established in 1822. Amongst the centenarians are the English newspapers "THE TIMES OF INDIA" from Bombay (1838), "THE PIONEER" from Lucknow (1865), "THE AMRITA BAZAR PATRIKA" from Calcutta (1868), "THE STATESMAN" from Calcutta (1875) and "THE HINDU" from Madras (1876).

    "THE MALAYALA MANORAMA" is the largest circulating newspaper in India. It has more than double the circulation of "THE INTERNATIONAL HERALD TRIBUNE" which is published in Paris and printed simultaneously in ten centres around the globe, Paris, London, Zurich, Hong Kong, Singapore, The Hague, Marseille, Miami, Rome and Tokyo. The Malayala Manorama is published simultaneously from five centres, its birthplace Kottayam, and from Calicut, Trivandrum and Cochin and Palghat.

    The Malayala Manorama was founded by Kandathil Varghese Mappillai of an orthodox Syrian Christian family from Kerala. The editorship passed to his nephew, Kandathil Cherian Mammen Mappillai (KCMM), a schoolteacher, who later became a planter, banker, industrialist, politician and freedom fighter.

    It was this type of vernacular newspaper, which existed in all corners of British India that carried the message of Mahatma Gandhi and other non-violent freedom fighters to the mass of people in Indian towns and villages that finally led to independent India. KCMM, like several others of the fifth estate, had to suffer the bitter pill for being responsible for guiding the people in his region to fight peacefully for their independence. He spent several years in prison on false charges. He saw his enterprises destroyed and his newspaper closed. He saw the death of his brother during their imprisonment.

    His drive for a free press continues even today. This drive, which KCMM passed on to his children, grandchildren and great-grandchildren, has made it the largest circulating newspaper in India with a daily circulation of almost a million copies and readership well into the many millions. The publishing group also produces the largest circulating vernacular weekly magazine, and the most popular vernacular magazines for women and children. Its English Language Weekly has been growing in circulation since its introduction in 1982. The group also publishes the largest selling Indian Year Book in both English and Malayalam and work on a Hindi Edition is well advanced.

    (Of course, the first of the Fortnightly Indian Webletters to hit the World Wide Web, Findians Briefings, has all the dignity and dedication of the character of KCMM. It is run by a grandson of KCMM who recalls the moments that his grandfather spent with him, even as a small boy and from whom he learnt the power of the pen.)

    The British did not like the vernacular papers. They had sprung up as a result of the revolution in 1857 against British Rule. They were controlled by drastic press regulations including the Official Secrets Act 1923, Indian Press (Emergency Powers) Act 1931, Foreign Regulation Act 1932 and the Indian States (Protection) Act 1934, amongst others.

    It was through these vernacular newspapers that the words of Indian national leaders such as Tilak, Mahatma Gandhi, Nehru, Netaji Subhas Chandra Bose, Sardar Patel, Maulana Azad, all freedom fighters, were transmitted deep into the heart of India. Editors of these newspapers risked their life to inform their fellow countrymen as to what was happening in different parts of India and what action they should participate in to obtain their freedom. It was through these newspapers that the call of non-violence was preached and its fruits explained. Several of these brave editors were forced to close their newspapers, spend their time in prison, all for supporting the cause of freedom. But it demonstrated that the power of the pen was mightier than the sword.

    Mahatma Gandhi would not have been successful had it not been for these brave unsung people around the country who, at risk of their own personal liberty, conveyed the message throughout the length and breadth of the country to every nook and cranny so that India could be led to independence by non-violent means. KCMM was one of these many who braved the forces to carry the message.

    He was born in 1873. He was unusual person in many respects. His thinking was far ahead of the time in which he lived. He achievements were far beyond the grasp and dreams of his generation. Born in a middle class family in a rural area of Travancore that had little contact with trade or industrial development in the rest of the country, KCMM had his up-bringing in a conservative environment. Breaking out of the mould was discouraged. He belonged to an age when the scope for public life and professional advancement was circumscribed by the conventions and traditions of caste and religion. It is a real wonder that KCMM dared to do what he did and that he succeeded in his endeavours.

    Society was very conservative, especially in his Syrian Christian community. The important principle was that the good name of the family had to be preserved at all costs. A farmer expected his sons to grow up as a good farmers. Sons were expected to do no more than try to add a little to the ancestral property. Industry was unheard off. Trade was restricted to a few commodities. Higher education was the privilege of a few. Government jobs were the preserve of a few communities. Access to important jobs was denied to the majority on the grounds of caste or religion.

    Literary pursuits and intellectual professions were frowned upon by the conservative Christian families as alien to family traditions. Political activities were almost non-existent. Even remote criticism of the ruler or his administration was equated with sedition. (Finns, does this remind you of some recent times?)

    Loyalty to the ruler was considered next only in importance to devotion to God and implicit obedience and conformity were the expected duties of the citizens. In fact, there were no citizens, there were only the ruler and his obedient and loyal subjects. KCMM, in spite of the severe limitations of his times, broke out of this mould in everything he attempted. He, however, remained a typical Syrian Christian and down-to-earth Travancorean.

    Born and brought up in a family of agriculturists, farming was his first interest. Conventional farming practices prevalent in Travancore did not appeal to him. Long before the Green Revolution was thought of in India, KCMM ventured on an experiment of reclaiming saline land for paddy cultivation. He tried the scientific application of natural fertilisers for paddy cultivation to increase productivity. Decades before the concept of Operation Flood, he demonstrated how production of milk could be organised on a large scale in rural areas and how this milk could be supplied to urban consumer centres at economic prices.

    Soon the plantation crops attracted his interest. He demonstrated how tea, coffee and rubber could be developed into good business ventures. He branched into untried areas of commerce, finance, banking and insurance. He was innovative in everything he put his mind to and saw the growth of a large banking business. His success was based on twin concepts of management efficiency and good service to clients, but above all it was based on good human relations with his co-workers. There was never a master slave relationship with his employees. Each was an individual to be heard and respected. Their problems were his problems, their happiness was his happiness, their grief was his grief.

    While the success of the Bank was the crowning glory of the achievements of KCMM in the economic field, it also brought a trail of personal disaster and economic ruin, though temporarily, for purely non-economic reasons. He could not remain indifferent to the social and political upheaval which was gathering momentum in Travancore, and in his advanced age he emerged as a powerful prophet and philosopher of this great movement. He paid a heavy price for this, but he would not have been true to himself if he had not provided the moral leadership and intellectual content to this great mass upsurge for social and political justice. It is here that was his unique contribution as the Editor of the Malayala Manorama. The newspaper became the main instrument for articulating the hopes of the disadvantageous sections of people for justice and fair play and for steering the course of popular aspirations towards the more important political goal of democracy and self-government.

    KCMM was a voracious reader. He had a flare for writing. Moreover, he was acutely sensitive to the aspirations of the people and fully conscious of their needs. In his newspaper he found the most adequate medium for educating the people of Kerala and leading them to a new age of progress, a progress suited to the peculiar aspects of the land that lay around them. He encouraged the exploitation of the local resources for the benefit of the local people.

    Above all, to KCMM freedom was priceless. He identified himself with the people in their struggle for responsible government. Even though he had been warned that the government would crush him, his bank and his entire business, if he extended even moral support to the freedom fighters, he did not desist from his political activities nor did he relent in his fight for the freedom of the country. He ignored every threat hurled at him and faced the consequences of his actions with indomitable courage. It was his zeal for the liberation of his people that led to his enchainment by the autocratic ruler of the State.

    KCMM loved the newspaper. Beside his wife, his only daughter and his eight sons, It was his foremost love, his precious life blood.

    KCMM was a man of heroic stature. He triumphed over the severest of adversities with unprecedented courage and supreme equanimity. He revolutionised the concept of the nineteenth century and helped build a modern and resurgent Kerala. He was a maker of modern Kerala and for that matter a lodestar of modern India. It is no wonder that he won the admiration and adoration of the people in Kerala.

    The history of the freedom struggle in India has given emphasis to the leadership given to it by the great national leaders such as Lokmanya Balagangadhar Tilak and Mahatma Gandhi, beside whom even Garibaldi and Bismarck pale into insignificance. However, historians have hardly done justice to the leaders who spearheaded the struggle for freedom in the princely states. They have totally ignored the powerful thinkers who gave the people in these states the purpose and direction, who inspired them to wage a formidable war for freedom. The French revolution was not just the story of Robespierre or Danton; it is the story of the revolutionary writings of Voltaire and Rousseau who fired the imagination of the countless men and women to make the revolution occur. KCMM was one of those writers in the Indian freedom struggle.

    Here was an agriculturist, planter, industrialist, trader, banker, writer, editor, social reformer, political philosopher, and crusader for social and political justice. Above all is seen the portrait of a good man, good in the real sense of the term. There were many achievements. There have been many who have been good in life. But there are few who have been good and great.

    Since Indians have achieved their freedom from the British only by the power of the pen and non-violence as preached by Gandhi and others, India will always remain a country where the Pen is a mighty weapon against forces of injustice, a weapon mightier than the Sword, and that above all categorises Indian Freedom as known by its masses. People like KCMM were quietly transmitting vital information to people to unite in their fight for liberty. There was never a call for anarchy, but intelligent analysis of educated journalists, never destructive, but always constructive, that resulted in the freedom movement having the national impact.

    Role of Findians Briefings

    Findians, through its fortnightly webletter stands for the principles espoused by KCMM, in another century in another country and using a different medium - - the World Wide Web.

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  3. Biographical sketch

    (Edited version from "K. C. Mammen Mappillai, The Man and His Vision " by Dr. M. J. Koshy, 1976, Kerala Historical Society)

    Every age has not brought forth great men. It is very rare that they emerge on the stage of history. When they do, they fulfil a mission, big or small, proportional to the need and what their ingenuity is capable of attaining. One such rare mortal was K. C. Mammen Mappillai, to whom, to use the words of Shakespeare, "blood and judgement are so well co-mingled that there are not a pipe for Fortunes finger to sound what stop she pleases."

    His genius was such that he was wont to set the Thames on fire whatever he laid his hands. As always happens, the success of his efforts demanded full payment though it mocked him with vain hopes and tested him with many a hardship.

    He was born on May 4th 1873, as the eldest son of K. I. Cherian (eldest brother of Kandathil Varghese Mappillai) and Mariamma of the Tayyil family at Niranam in Central Travancore in South West India. This is the place regarded as the seat of one of the earliest seven churches founded by St. Thomas the Apostle. (Ed: KCMM was fully immersed in his roots as a Indian Syrian Christian and never left the path of the teachings of Jesus Christ even in the face of all his adversities.)

    As was customary among Syrian Christians to deny the privilege of education to the eldest son to enable him to attend to household and family affairs, his schooling was neglected in the early days. However, his passion for learning was so well appreciated by his uncle, Varghese Mappillai, that he permitted the young lad to join a government school where he completed his middle school. He continued his studies in the high school at Kottayam. He matriculated by private appearance. He qualified himself to study for a university degree from Madras Christian College, Madras, after doing his junior college. in Trivandrum.

    His wish was to continue his higher studies and join the Mysore Civil Service, a very coveted position in those days. But what a host of evils foreign-oriented rule and backwardness had to answer for in the Travancore of his times! The tremendous inertia of the age had weighed her down, degrading customs and evils had eaten into her, many a parasite had clung to her and sucked her blood. Will Providence allow men charged with a mission to run away from the nakedness, poverty and misery? So, as if by some divine calling, he was summoned to Travancore by his uncle and obliged with an appointment in a high school at Kottayam. Soon he was its Headmaster, a position he held till 1907. A model teacher, he was revered by the teachers and the taught.

    Following the demise, in 1904, of his uncle, the founder and editor of Malayala Manorama (a small literary newspaper), its entire responsibility fell on the shoulders of KCMM. He had a distinct flair for journalism. He used his encyclopaedic knowledge in its columns with verve and vision. Under his editorship the popularity and influence of the newspaper rose. It soon grew from being a purely literary bi-weekly into a flourishing tri-weekly by 1918, and a daily, with several novel and interesting features, in 1928. His aim was to make it a mass-education and news medium. He not only succeeded but marshalled the beginnings of the social responsibility concept of mass communication, in which the medium and the people become partakers of a common cause.

    He was several times a member of the Popular Assembly and the Legislative Council. As a legislator he had few equals. His faith in democracy and ardent spirit against caste madness, which had been breeding a legion of evils for years, made him a reformer and vigilant defender of peoples rights. An erudite scholar, his discourse on the floor of the House and his writings were replete with wisdom. moderation, depth of perceptiom and maturity. Amidst at least a few members blissfully ignorant of the duties of legislators, his profundity of knowledge stood out. A spirit of accommodation, not at the risk of principles, enabled him to carry the day on almost all the burning issues that came up for dscussion. In the political agitation for responsible government he was one of the central figures. Until his demise he was consulted on all matters of tactics. His involvement in politics cost him his newspaper and the bank he had nurtured.

    Perhaps more enduring is his contribution to the economy. His pioneering efforts were in the field of plantations, banking, joint stock companies and industries. Were it not for the bank being destroyed by political intrigue he would have risen, in his time, to the level of the biggest industrialists and financiers of independent India.

    All that he lost he revived after 1947 and also blazed new trails in subsequent years. Every day some new plan or scheme would dawn upon him. But it was too much for him to endure. Death rewarded him with eternal rest on 31 December 1953 (Ed: I was at his bedside at his passing and even as a 11 year old cried from the bottom of my heart!). Yet, he has left behind a halo that will ever lighten our path to the glory of a beautiful part of India which he had so lovingly visualised.

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  4. Addition by the Editor

    People around the world associate Indian national figures as Mahatma Gandhi and Lokmanaya Tilak with the freedom movement against British occupation in India. There were many unsung heros who worked for freedom irrespective of what the national leaders were doing. One of these was KCMM who was one of the spearheads of the freedom movement in the princely state of Travancore.

    Freedom was most important to this character who identified himself with the people of Travancore in their struggle for responsible government. He had been warned that he would be destroyed if he gave any form of support to the freedom fighters. He knew what was his duty. He ignored every threat that was hurled at him and faced the consequences of his action with courage.

    His love for the region where he was born limited his sphere of influence in Indian national politics. After his devotion to his wife (a gentler person I cannot remember), his greatest love was his only daughter among his nine children. Next, he loved his life as a journalist as he was able to express his views and prove that the pen was mightier than the sword.

    Besides his autobiography and several works on his life, there are the recollections of those who knew him. Although I was only a small boy, my memory of him is vivid as he always had time for us children, even when he was in the midst of a most important meeting. Not just us his grandchidren, but any child was to him most important. He lived his Christian life with this guiding feature of love.

    Today in India there rages a bitter controversey about the role of other religions to Hinduism and especially that of Christianity in India. There are some who try to point to Christianity as being alien to India. These people only show their ignorance. India is one of the few countries in the world where Christianity is of Apostolic origins and the Syrian Christians of India are more Indian than those who try, in their self-interest, to make them out to be aliens.

    By dedicating the Main Page to this individual who fought, using the power of the pen, in his lifetime, for the oppressed, the hungry and the weak, it is my endeavour to continue his work. It must be remembered he fought for the rights of women and especially their right for education. His daughter graduated from an Indian University in 1934.

    The purpose of Findians Briefings is to try to continue his work, 42 years after his passing away, in a manner which he would have done, had he the power of the World Wide Web.

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  5. Family tree covering 8 generations - till the grandchildren of this Editor

    1791 - 1855: Kandathil Mathulla Mappillai

    married ?


    1. Karthalil Eapen Mappillai
    2. Varghese
    3. Mathulla
    4. Idikkulla
    5. Chacko
    6. Pothan
    7. Mariamma>
    8. Aleyamma>


    1816 - 1896: Karthalil Eapen Mappillai

    married ?


    1. Kochachiamma
    2. Mathulla
    3. Mariamma
    4. K. I. Cherian Mappillai - married Mariamma (Thayyil family of Niranam)
    5. Aleyamma
    6. Eapen Vakil
    7. K. I. Varghese Mappillai - Founder of Malayala Manorama
    8. Kochupennu
    9. Annamma


    1850 -1904: K. I. Cherian Mappillai

    married Mariamma (Thayyil family of Niranam)


    1. Saramma
    2. Akkamma
    3. K. C. Mammen Mappillai - married Kunjandamma (Modisseril family)
    4. K. C. Eapen
    5. K. C. Mathew
    6. K. C. Philip
    7. K. C. Chacko
    8. Achamma
    9. K. C. Varghese
    10. Annamma


    1873 - 1953: K. C. Mammen Mappillai

    married Kunjandamma (? - 1950) (Modisseril family)

    MM family in 1936


    1. K. M. Cherian (Awarded Padma Shree, Padma Bhushan) (Mammi, Cherian, Sarasu)
    2. K. M. Oommen (Kuriyan, Accakutty, Mammi, Oommen, Ashwathy)
    3. K. M. Eapen (Ammini, Susy, Mary, Mammen)
    4. K. M. Varghese Mappillai (Mammen, Soma)
    5. K. M. Jacob (Aniyan, Mammen, Jacob)
    6. K. M. Philip (Awarded Padma Shree) (Sen, Peter)
    7. Mariakutty - married Kuriyan Matthan (Malaykil family of Tiruvalla) (Mariam, Kuriyan, Jacob, Elizabeth)
    8. K. M. Mathew (Awarded Padma Bhushan) (Mammen (Awarded Padma Shree), Philip, Jacob, Thangam)
    9. K. M. Mammen Mappillai (Awarded Padma Shree) (Vinoo, Ravi, Remani, Arun)


    1914 - 2000: Mariakutty - Mariam Matthan

    Mrs. Kuriyan (Mariam) Matthan - Ammachi

    wife of Kuriyan Matthan (1911 - 1993) (Dewan Bahadur Mallaikal Kuriyam Matthan family of Thiiruvalla)

    Mr. Kuriyan Matthan - Appachen


    1. Mariam (Nalini, 1937 - 1960) - married (1959) Peter Jacob (Ashok married (1986) to Deepa, children: Philip, Sarah and Alex)
    2. Kuriyan (Ranjit, 1941 - ) - married (1966) Thangam Mani (Nandini married (1994) to Dipak Chandy, children: Rohan and Annisha; Nirupa)
    3. Jacob (Sushil, 1943 - ) - married (1967) Annikki (Reinikka family of Puokkiovaara, Finland) (Susanna Mariam, Jaakko Jacob, Joanna, Mikael Kuriyan)
    4. Elizabeth (Thangamma, 1947 - ) - married (1967) Jacob Matthai (Chitra (Mariam) married (1997) to Sam Zachariah, Succhi (Rachel) married (1999) to Michael Bettua)


    1943 - : Jacob Matthan

    Mr. Jacob Matthan - Sushil

    Husband of Rauha Annikki Matthan (1944 - )


    Annikki Rauha Matthan (nee Reinikka)

    JM Family in 1974
    The JM family at the Velacheri Road house in 1974 Photo by Mathew Varghese, Helsinki


    1. Susanna Mariam (1967 - ) (England - married (1992) Christopher Rogers of Orpington, England
      - 21.8.1997 daughter Asha )

      Susanna, Chris and Asha, 2005

      Chris, Susanna and Asha, 2005

    2. Jacob (1968 - ) (England)

      Jaakko, 1992

      Jaakko, Birmingham, 1992

    3. Joanna (1971 - ) (Finland / England - (married (1995) Tony Manninen of Kalajoki, Finland)
      Tony, Joanna, Daniel and Samuel, June 2005 ŠNirupa
      Tony, Joanna, Daniel and Samuel, June 2005 ŠNirupa

      • - 7.3.1997 son Samuel

        Samuel - Oulu, Finland

      • - 5.5.2004 son Daniel

    4. Mikael Kuriyan (1973 - ) (Finland)

      Mika points the way
      Mika points the way, Oulu, Finland, 2005

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  6. List of (English) reference books about KCMM
    1. Mammen Mappillai REMINISCENCES, translated from the original Malayalam by Murkot Kunhappa, 1980, 270 pages.
    2. Portrait of K. C. Mammen Mappillai, Dr. K. M. Tharakan, 1988, 363 pages.
    3. K. C. Mammen Mappillai, The Man and His Vision, Dr. M. J. Koshy, 1976, 673 pages.


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    Please send your comments to:
    Jacob Matthan,
    Kampitie 6 B,
    FIN-90150 Oulu, Finland
    email: Jacob Matthan

    Return to the Main Page: Findians Briefings
    Date last modified: Monday, December 12, 2005
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