Introduction / History
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.
Where Are they Located?
They live mostly in the Tuticorin, Kanyakumari and Thirunelveli districts of Tamil Nadu, India. Quite a good numbers have now settled in Chennai, capital of 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?
Vathiriayan community is one of the SC communities according to Tamil Nadu Gazette (no 72). Their traditional job is weaving. Due to migration, education and globalization this occupation is almost becoming extinct.
What Are Their Beliefs?
Sociologically speaking, this is one of the rare communities, follow the clan system through maternal side, though it is not a matrilineal society.
The majority of the Vathiriyan are Hindu. They responded to the gospel along with the Nadar community during the SPG and CMS missionary work and Catholic missionary work. According to one source, half of them are Christians both Protestants and Catholics. It is reported that as many as 20 percent of them may be evangelical Christians.
What Are Their Needs?
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 one bishop at least. One of the bishops of Evangelical Church of India (ECI) is from this community."
This community can be taken as an example for the following: missionaries used education and vocational training as a tool for economic upliftment. This community used the education given by the missionaries. Today number of them are engineers, medical doctors, teachers and doing many other jobs. 70% is the literacy rate.