Sanal Edamaruku is an Indian born author, rationalist and free speech activist, now living in Helsinki, Finland.
He was born in Thodupuzha, in Kerala state in 1955 and spent his childhood in Kottayam where his father Joseph Edamaruku, a famous author and journalist, worked in Malayala Manorama, the largest circulated newspaper in Kerala. Both his parents Joseph and Soley came from two different religions – Christianity and Hinduism. They both were writers and pioneers of the rationalist movement in Kerala.
Sanal Edamaruku was brought up naturally without any religious indoctrination. He was the first student in India who joined a school without any religion or caste in school records.
Sanal has a first-class post-graduate degree in Political Science from the University of Kerala (Trivandrum) and M.Phil from the School of International Studies of the Jawaharlal Nehru University (JNU) in New Delhi. He also has a postgraduate diploma in Journalism. During his research for Ph.D. in JNU, Sanal joined the International diplomatic mission of Afro-Asian Rural Reconstruction Organisation (AARRO) and served in India and Japan. He also edited its journal Rural Reconstruction. By the end of 1983, he resigned from the diplomatic job to focus his attention on the rationalist movement and to publish books. Indian Atheist Publishers, started by Sanal is Asia’s largest freethought publishing house now.
Sanal Edamaruku served Indian Rationalist Association as its General Secretary from 1984 to 2005 and as its president since then. He founded the Rationalist International in 1995 during the 1st International Rationalist Conference held in New Delhi. He also edited the English journal Modern freethinker and Malayalam journal Therali.
Sanal Edamaruku is a Fellow of the Committee for Skeptical Inquiry (USA), an Honorary Associate of the Rationalist Association of the UK; Honorary Associate of Rationalist and Humanist Association of New Zealand; and the President of Rationalist International.
As a journalist, Sanal Edamaruku wrote regular columns in Kerala Sabdam and occasional columns in The Times of India (Mumbai) and The Guardian (London).
Sanal Edamaruku’s books and articles deal mainly with rationalist thoughts and they are critical of superstition, especially in India. His writings are translated into many Indian languages and English, French, German, Spanish, Polish, and Finnish. He has traveled and lectured in many countries and spoken in International Conferences.
Sanal Edamaruku describes his program as “bringing about a social and intellectual climate-change by strengthening reason, scientific attitude, the pursuit for knowledge, personal confidence and reducing the influence of superstition, irrational fear, and blind obedience.”
His campaigns attracted wide international attention and he was featured on TV channels like Discovery, BBC, Channel IV, and CNN, and in the international print media including New York Times, Washington Post, The Independent, The Times, The Guardian, The Telegraph, Time, Newsweek, and Asia Week.
During 1994-95 Sanal Edamaruku led an all India campaign of 18 months, traveling through hundreds of Indian villages to promote scientific attitude and to educate the public against superstitions. The famous three-episode British documentary Gurubusters is based on this campaign. (Watch a clip from Gurubusters).
As an active TV personality, Sanal Edamaruku has appeared in hundreds of TV programs and he has spoken in all major Indian TV channels defending science and rationalism. In one TV discussion in 2008, when a Guru claimed to have the power to kill anyone by mantra chanting and tantra rituals, he challenged the Guru to kill him to prove the claim. This became a landmark TV program in the history of Indian television. (Watch The Great Tantra Challenge.)
As a rationalist, skeptic, freethinker, humanist, and atheist, he advocates fulness of life by enriching and enjoying civilization, art and culture – not by faith and prayers.
Sanal Edamaruku is closely associated with art and culture. He is a trained Kathakali dancer and directed Kathakali plays. He also performs the traditional Kerala percussion instrument Edakka. While in Delhi, he served as the President of the International Centre for Kathakali. He was also the president of the Kerala School in Delhi Canning Road, and a Resource Person of National Science Centre (New Delhi) when he left for Finland in 2012 following a controversial miracle exposure on TV. (Watch the CNN report on the Mumbai miracle.)
Since he found that the source of the “miraculous” water dripping crucifix in a Mumbai church 2012 was a leaky toilet drainage line, and explained that on TV, there were threats to his life and safety. The Mumbai archbishop and the President of Catholic Bishops’ Conference of India (CBCI) demanded his apology for stopping the blasphemy cases against him and the threats to his life. He refused to apologize and moved to Helsinki for his safety and continues his activities at a global level from there. (Read a BBC report on the controversial Mumbai miracle and Sanal Edamaruku’s life.)
Sanal Edamaruku continues his work from Finland, traveling across the world and speaking at various events/conferences. He also organizes International Rationalist Conferences every year—the last one at the University of Cambridge in the UK in 2019.