A T Kovoor – The Iconoclast

It just passed through my thought: Why don’t write a few things about late Abraham Thoma Kovoor, popularly known as Dr. Kovoor or Dr. A T Kovoor? During 1970s I was closely associated with him in our Miracle Exposure Campaigns. That ought to be the reason for my urge to write a few lines about Kovoor  and his work.

Kovoor was a world renowned Rationalist. His name is even today closely linked with the rationalist movements in the sub-continent of India especially in Kerala, the citadel of Rationalist movement in the Southern part of India.

Abraham Thoma was born on the tenth of April, 1898 in an orthodox Christian family called Kovoor House at Thiruvalla, a township in Kerala State. As a child he was a believer and went to church and participated in prayers with family as every faithful does. During his youthful days, he changed as a different boy in matters of god and religion. Doubting and questioning became part of his growth.

On completing graduation Kovoor worked as  teacher for some time in a High School near his home town. Soon he switched over to the CMS College, Kottayam, Kerala as a lecturer. During that period he happened to familiarize with the visiting Principal of Jaffna Central College in Srilanka. It was a turning point in his career in the teaching profession. The Principal appointed Kovoor as the professor of Botany in Jaffna Central College and Kovoor left for Srilanka, for good. He continued as a professor in Jaffna College till the year 1943 when he joined the Richmond College, Galle, Srilanka. After a few years he joined Thurston College in Colombo and finally retired from there as Head of the Science Department in the year 1959.

After retirement Kovoor devoted his entire time for the cause of Rationalism and the Rationalist movement. He promoted the Ceylon Rationalist Association and published an annual journal, ‘The Ceylon Rationalist Ambassador’. In 1961 he traveled in Europe and established contact with the World Union of Freethinkers. Under the pseudonym Narcissus, he wrote articles in different newspapers and magazines about his encounters with the paranormal, the witches and the sorcery. He traveled to India several times and addressed meetings and conferences at the behest of local rationalist organizers. Kovoor was an enthusing orator. His lectures used to immensely attract his audiences.

The Indian Rationalist Association (IRA) held its silver jubilee annual day meet in December 1974. I was the Vice President of the Association at that time. We invited Kovoor to attend the meeting. On the conclusion of the meeting I along with other working Committee members resolved to conduct a lecture-cum-demonstration program under the name and style, “Divine Miracle Exposure Campaign”. The campaign was intended to expose miracles and miracle performers in the garb of godmen and spiritual gurus. These fakes cheat the gullible believers. India was and continues to be the breeding place of the godmen, godwomen, sadhus and sanyasis under different names and styles to exploit the believers mentally and physically. It doesn’t mean that the rest of the world is free from superstitious beliefs and practices.

We requested Kovoor to lead the campaign tour with his lecture. The lecture was to be followed by magic performance by one magician called Swaminathan and the stage performance of mass hypnotism to explain the origin and growth of beliefs and obscurantism of gullible believers, by the famous scientific hypnotist, P K Narayanan. Indian Rationalist Association organized the Campaigns in villages and towns across different parts of the Country during the period 1975 to 1978. The DMEC programs were a great success in the path of eradication of superstition in the Country.

Abraham Thomas Kovoor died on September 18, 1978. He wrote in his will. “To set an example, I don’t want a burial.” According to his will, Kovoor’s eyes were donated to an eye bank and his corpse to a medical college for anatomical study, with instructions that his skeleton eventually be given to the science laboratory of Thurston College. All of these wishes were honored.

Kovoor was an ardent iconoclast. He fought beliefs and traditional institutions of gullibility. He fought debilitating practices of obscurantism. Kovoor’s name is remembered as a staunch rationalist and as a nascent human being.

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