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  • KG Gopal

Remembering Joseph Edamaruku

14 years without Joseph Edamaruku.

Forward, gathering strength from his memory...

From the Will and Testament of Joseph Edamaruku:

"I do not believe in a life after death or soul. I wish even my dead body should be useful for the humankind. I do not want a funeral. I entrust my son Sanal Edamaruku to donate my dead body to a medical college of his choice for the use of students of medicine. Before that, my eyes may be donated to an eye-bank to enable two blind people to see this beautiful world. If possible, harvest all my usable organs that may benefit someone to live longer."


Joseph Edamaruku, was an eminent rationalist, scholar, and author of 173 books and more than two thousand articles, mainly in the Malayalam language.

An indefatigable campaigner against obscurantism, superstitions and blind belief, Edamaruku represents a colorful era of Indian rationalism. He was the president of Indian Rationalist Association from 1995 to 2005. He was instrumental in building up the strong rationalist movement in Kerala (where he lived several years) and in many other Indian states.

He won the International Atheist Award in 1979 - received it from Madalyn Murray O'Hair, founder of American Atheists, in Dallas, USA. He received this award from Madalyn Murray O'Hair at the Dallas Convention of American Atheists in 1979. Following the AA Convention both Joseph Edamaruku and his son Sanal Edamaruku who was leading the Rationalist Student Movement of India then, along with Nicholas Walter, the then leader of Rationalist Press Association of UK, spoke in many American Atheist local meetings.

Sanal Edamaruku, Nicholas Walter and Joseph Edamaruku - photo by Madalyn Murray O' Hair

Picture: Sanal Edamaruku, Nicholas Walter and Joseph Edamaruku - photo by Madalyn Murray O'Hair

Joseph Edamaruku was the face of the rationalist movement in India for several decades and is known for his critical works on holy books.

Hailing from a traditional Syrian Christian family that contributed bishops and priests to the church, close experience with the church and Bible education made him a rationalist and atheist while still in his teens. He became an activist, married Soley from a Hindu family and challenged caste marriages.

His autobiography, "Kodungattuyarthiya Kaalam" (The Times that Raised the Tempest) won the Kerala Literary Academy Award as the best autobiography in Malayalam in 2000.

Important books of Joseph Edamaruku: Cultural History of Kerala (1977), Christ and Krishna never lived (1981), Quran - a Critical Study (1982), Bhagavad Gita - a Critical Study (1982), Rationalist State (1983), Upanishads - a Critical Study (2004) and a series of 36 books on world religions (1984-1987).

Journalist: Joseph Edamaruku edited daily newspapers and mass-circulated magazines, published rationalist journals. At the age of 22, he joined as a professional journalist in Malayala Manorama, a large circulated newspaper in Southern India. He was the first editor of the popular Manorama Year Book (1956-1970); was the chief editor of Kerala Bhushanam daily (1970-77); and Delhi Bureau chief of Kerala Sabdam (1977-2006).

Paul Kurtz (philosopher, author, former chairman of Centre for Inquiry, former Honorary Associate of Rationalist International, and former President of International Humanist and Ethical Union) wrote about Joseph Edamaruku on his death:

"Joseph Edamaruku was a heroic battler for human rights and dignity. Long in the front ranks of rationalists, he made enormous contributions to learning and understanding. Ahead of his time, Joseph Edamaruku pointed out the importance of rationalist ideals, freedom of thought and humanist values. His impressive literary production helped to keep alive the importance of secularism as a political ideal and of skepticism in confronting the claims of Gurus and Godmen who deceive the public.

"As India enters the ranks of developing nations by accelerating its economic growth, it is important that the secular basis of India not be forgotten. As the largest democracy in the world, it can play a key role in keeping alive the commitment to freedom, democracy, and secularism. Here the works of Joseph Edamaruku and his son Sanal are vital in the new India that is emerging."

AK Antony, Defence Minister of India, paying homage to Joseph Edamaruku. Sanal Edamaruku, next to him.

Picture: AK Antony, Defence Minister of India, paying homage to Joseph Edamaruku. Sanal Edamaruku, next to him.

Joseph Edamaruku passed away on 29th June 2006, while he was in sleep. He was active and attended meetings and tv interviews even on the last day of his life.

Respecting his wish, his eyes and body were donated to the All India Institute of Medical Sciences in Delhi - body for anatomy studies of medical students, and eyes for two blind people who got eye sight with that.

Wife: Soley Edamaruku (1934-2014)

Son: Sanal Edamaruku

Daughter: Geetha Edamaruku

Grand children: Sakthy, Samkhya (children of - Sanal and Sandhya Edamaruku); Maina (daughter of Geetha and Göran Skarner)

Great grandchild: Saanchi (daughter of Sakthy and Rohitash Singh)

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