Updated 22 November 2018

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Karnataka Central - South India

Karnataka State is in south-west India. Prior to 1956 it was known as Mysore. In 2011 it had a population of 61 million. It is the eighth largest state in India with Kannade as its main language. Geographically it consists of a coastal strip, a hilly area and a plateau. Its highest point is 6,329ft. It has 2 river systems, the Krishna in the north and the Kaveri in the south, both draining eastwards into the Bay of Bengal. It is situated around 18ºN of the Equator and has a monsoon climate, the monsoon season being June to September. The state average rainfall is 45 inches per annum, but the coastal region gets 143 inches per annum! The average winter temperature is 32ºC and 34ºC in summer, but over the decades temperatures have ranged from 2.8ºC 45.6ºC! 20% of the region is forest which can be designated as preserved, protected, unenclosed, owned by a village or private. In the National Forest Policy only 33% is ring-fenced which environmentally is problematic. There is a rich diversity of flora and fauna. The area is popular with tourists especially its spectacular waterfalls, beaches and temples. There are eleven ports and both an extensive railway and road network.

The history of the state is ancient and complicated with successive waves of empires, governments and rulers. The modern state was formed in 1956. The British Raj was established in 1799 which gave rise to numerous uprisings into the 20th century until India’s independence. Several religions are represented. 83% Hindu, 11% Muslim, 4% Christian, 0.8% Jains, 0.7% Buddhist. Hinduism has long been the main religion in various forms and there was an Islamic presence as early as the 10th century. Catholics from Goa came in the 17th and 18th centuries.

Rice and ragi are the staple grains in the south while jolada rotti and sorghum are staple grains in the north. The coastal cuisine is apparently very distinctive. Agriculture is dependent on the monsoon with some irrigation. Significantly  the state has a strong industrial and manufacturing base. Some of the industries such as aeronautics, electrical, and machine tool manufacture are in the public sector, as well as science and technological research and an oil refinery at Mangalore. The state is a leader in IT including software with over 2000 firms in 2007. It has been called the Silicone Valley of India. In addition there is floriculture (flowers and ornamental plants) and a silk industry.

There is a high literacy rate of 75.6% encouraged by a mid-day meal scheme. The public healthcare system is good compared with other states but the private system is very good attracting healthcare tourism of 8000 per annum!


The Church of South India is a union of various denominations including Anglicans, Methodists, Congregationalists, Presbyterians and Reformists instituted in 1947. It has 22 dioceses.

The first Protestant missionary arrived in the area in 1810: Rev. John Hands was followed by the Weslyan Methodists, SPCK and CMS. When the Mysore Diocese was divided into three in 1970, one became Central Karnataka Diocese. It consists of 120 ‘pastorates’ or congregations. St Mark’s Cathedral, built in the colonial style is in Bangalore and was constructed between 1808 and 1812. The diocese has 2 colleges and 10 schools.


The Mothers’ Union is represented by the Women’s Fellowship for Christian Service (WFCS) which is affiliated to it. It works with the Church of South India on issues of gender inequality, child exploitation and literacy. In particular it is supports outreach to the Dalit and Adivasi communities. The Dalit are the ‘untouchables’ of the caste system which is upheld not only in Hindu communities but also by some Christian communities. The Adivasi is an umbrella term for a mixed set of ethnic and tribal groups considered to be the aboriginal population or original inhabitants of India. These people are tribal and not part of the caste system. There are small numbers in Karnataka but they struggle to survive in their traditional lands where they practise subsistence farming in self-sufficient economic units because the land is being taken over or proscribed for preservation by the government. They are mainly Hindu but there are some Christians. These two groups of people are being provided for by the Thalithakumi Programme run by the Church’s Fund for Child Rights. It aims to provide new opportunities by running literacy classes at night after the children come in from working in the fields. Child labour is high especially among girls. In addition the Church organises consultations, workshops and study groups covering livelihood, culture, economics, politic and theological concerns affecting these people.

An interesting postscript to information about Karnataka was that there was no obvious reference to St Thomas, traditionally considered the patron saint of India. He of ‘Doubting Thomas’ fame, was said to have travelled to South India in AD 51-52 where he converted many Jews who were settled there on the Kerala Coast, long before the Catholics from Goa in the east established a community. There is some doubt as to how and where he died, but a community of Christians in Syria claim that his body was brought back to Syria and buried there.