Politics

Changing Tamil Nadu: Christians Ahead Of Muslims In Absolute Numbers 

Tamil Nadu Church Christians (ARUN SANKAR/AFP/Getty Images)
Snapshot
  • Numbers have changed considerably since the 1951 census which recorded more Muslims in Tamil Nadu than Christians

The Centre for Policy Studies (CPS) has posted its twenty-fourth note on the Religion Census of 2011 on its website. The note is on the distribution and growth of Christians and Muslims in Tamil Nadu.

As per the 2011 census, there were 44 lakh Christians in Tamil Nadu, which is roughly six percent of the state’s population. Tamil Christians constitute around 15 per cent of the total Christian population in the country.

Though Christians are uniformly spread through out the state, their population is more pronounced in the southern districts of Tamil Nadu. For example, Kanyakumari district has seen a rapid increase in the number of Christians, where the share of Christians in the population rose from 30.7 percent in 1921 to 34.7 percent in 1951 and has risen to 46.8 percent since then. The growth has also been remarkable in Kancheepuram and Thiruvallur districts.



Christians in Tamil Nadu have a presence of more than two and a half percent in all districts, except Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem, Namakkal, Karur and Perambalur. In the rest of the State, Christians have a non-negligible presence everywhere. Christians in Tamil Nadu have a presence of more than two and a half percent in all districts, except Krishnagiri, Dharmapuri, Salem, Namakkal, Karur and Perambalur. In the rest of the State, Christians have a non-negligible presence everywhere.

Muslims are more uniformly spread in the state compared to Christians though the share of both the communities in the population is nearly the same.

The highest concentration of Muslims is in Ramanathapuram district, where they form 15.4 percent of the population.

As the map below shows, Muslim presence is near or above 10 percent in Chennai, the Nilgiris, Ramanathapuram and Tirunelveli.

Interestingly, these same districts have a relatively high presence of Christians too. They also have a relatively high share in Thanjavur-Thiruchirappalli region.

The growth trajectory of both the communities in the state is unique. Christians have grown faster than Muslims in the last six decades.

At the time of independence, Muslim population was more than the Christian. There were 14.3 lakh Christians in Tamil Nadu compared to 14.4 lakh Muslims in 1951. The 2011 census though recorded 44.2 lakh Christians as compared to 42.3 lakh Muslims.

The graph depicts the changing percentage shares of the two communities since 1951 and the relatively higher overall growth of Christians in this period The graph depicts the changing percentage shares of the two communities since 1951 and the relatively higher overall growth of Christians in this period

Here is a brief summary of the demographic analysis from the note:

#1 Tamil Nadu is second only to Kerala in terms of Christian population. In 2011, there were 44 lakh Christians in Tamil Nadu and 61 lakh in Kerala. These two southernmost states of India thus accommodate more than a crore of the total 2.8 crore Christians in the country.

#2 The share of Christians in the total population Tamil Nadu is 6.1 percent, which is also the second highest among the large states of India, though the proportion of Christians is higher in some of the smaller states and union territories, including some in the Northeast.

#3 The share of Christians in the Tamil Nadu population has been growing since 1951, when it was at 4.7 percent

#4 Christians in Tamil Nadu are concentrated in several pockets spread across the state. These include a pocket around Chennai city in the north; another comprising parts of Thanjavur, Tiruchirappalli and Dindigul in the middle; the Nilgiris and parts of Coimbatore in the west; Sivaganga and Ramanathapuram in the southeast; and, Tirunelveli, Thoothukkudi and Kanyakumari in the south.

#5 Of the pockets of high Christian concentration, the most intense is that around Kanyakumari. Christian numbers in Kanyakumari district have grown steadily for several decades and increased by more than 16 percentage points between 1921 and 2001. Christians now form a near majority in the district with a share of 46.9 percent.

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#6 The northern pocket around Chennai city has also been witnessing considerable growth of Christians. In the composite Chengalpattu district, which has been divided into the two districts of Thiruvallur and Kancheepuram that surround Chennai, the share of Christians has risen from 2.2 percent in 1951 to 6.4 percent. Chengalpattu saw major spurts in its Christian population during 1961-71 and 1991-2001.

#7 The number and share of Muslims in Tamil Nadu is nearly equal to that of Christians. They have their pockets of high concentration in the eastern coastal taluks of Ramanathapuram and Pudukkottai; in some western taluks of Tirunelveli bordering Kerala; in Vellore in the north; and in the Nilgiris in the west.

#8 In the Ramanathapuram taluk of Ramanathapuram, Manamelkudi taluk of Pudukkottai, Shenkottai of Tirunelveli and Gudalur of the Nilgiris, the share of Muslims is between 25 and 28 percent and it is about 22 percent in Ambur of Vellore district.

#9 Overall growth in the share of Muslims in Tamil Nadu since 1951 has been less than that of Christians. But, there has been a visible spurt in the Muslim growth during 2001-11.

#10 The presence of Christians and Muslims in Tamil Nadu, like in Kerala, has historical antecedents. But, much of the growth in their presence in Tamil Nadu, as also in Kerala, seems to have occurred during the British period and in the period of Independent India.

Read the complete analysis here on the CPS blog.

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