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Spiritualist with a vision


FATHER EMMANUEL Nidhiri's name may not ring a bell in the minds of the young generation or many outside Central Travancore. But, this Christian priest was the founder of the Nazranee Deepika, (the forerunner of today's Deepika), and was instrumental in the founding of yet another newspaper, the Malayala Manorama, in the company of Keralavarma Valiakoi Thampuran, a polyglot who was at ease in 18 languages and was the moving spirit behind the Malayalee Memorial — one of the first steps in the social transformation of Kerala — and a key figure in the opening up of his community to English education.

The account of Nidheerickal Mani Kathanar, as he is generally known, given by one of his contemporaries, P.R. Sankara Pillai, illustrates the multifaceted personality in its true colours: "Kathanar had the extraordinary gift of attending to several activities simultaneously. Playing chess, creating poetry, prescribing medical treatment, listening to arguments of rival parties and making horoscopic calculations".

Born into a rich agrarian family on May 27, 1842 at Kuravilangad, Emmanuel entered spiritual service at the age of 19 as a deacon. He was ordained priest in 1876. A relentless fighter, Fr Nidhiri's passion for freedom forced him to lead the campaign against the increasing monopoly of European bishops in the ecclesiastical sphere and to fight for the Nazranee identity of Christians who remained divided among Jacobites and the different rites of the Catholic Church.

By George Jacob

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