Birth and Childhood
India is famous for its very ancient "Indus Valley Culture" and strong religious traditions. World religions like Hinduism, Budhism, Jainism, and Sikhism were born in India. The epics "Ramayana" and "Mahabharata" together with the classical scriptural writings of "Vedas", "Puranas" and "Gita" contribute towards profound religious and philosophical traditions. India is the biggest democracy in the world and the second among the highly populated countries. "Himalayas" and Tajmahal" are tourist attractions. Mahatma Gandhi is the father of the Nation. Mother Theresa had served the poor in India. Though "Kashmir" gives a headache and poverty causes a lot of problems, religious harmony and modern computer software-developments announce a bright future for India.
Kerala is one of the South-West States of India which lies on the shore of Indian Ocean. Beautiful sea waters, high mountain ranges and wild forests make Kerala one of the most beautiful states of India. "Keram" is coconut. Kerala is the land of coconuts. Rice, tea and coffee grow in large quantities. Spices like Pepper, Cardamom, Ginger, Chilli and fruits like Banana, Mango and Jack-fruit are specialties of Kerala. These invited strong trade relationship with Rome and Persia even before the Christian Era. Kerala received Christian faith already in the first century. St. Thomas, one of the Apostles of Jesus, came to Kerala in A.D. 52 and founded Christianity here. Sr. Rani Maria belongs to this Christian Community.
Pulluvazhy is a small village situated near to the Cochin (Kochi) City and Perumbavoor town. It is adjacent to Malayatoor, the famous St. Thomas Shrine, and to Kalady, the birth-place of the renowned Indian Philosopher Adisankara. Majority of the people are Christians and Hindus. "Pullu" is grass and "Vazhy" is way. The village speaks of natural beauty with green grass, trees, rice fields, and coconut gardens. The village is known for cattle field and small scale wood industries. In the center of the village is situated the St. Thomas Catholic Church and the miraculous chapel of St. Antony. This religiously oriented little village is the birth-place of Sr. Rani Maria.
Sr. Rani Maria was the second child of Paily and Eliswa of the Vattalil family. Her brothers and sisters were Stephen, Annie, Varghese, Thressiamma, Celine (Sr. Selmy Paul) and Lucy. She was born on 29 January 1954 and was baptized on 5 February. Her uncle Varkey and grandmother Mariamma were the Godparents. She was given the name Mary. But at home all called her with the pet name Marykunju. Her brother Stephen speaks thus about her childhood: "She was a girl of few words; she needed only very simple clothes, and did not show any interest in wearing ornaments. She never did anything to hurt anyone. Even though something happened, she felt sorry about it." Her mother speaks of her with pride: "She was different from other children and was an exceptionally obedient child."
Marykunju received the first Holy Communion in 1961 and the Sacrament of Confirmation in 1966. She grew up in a healthy and strong background of prayer and devotional practices. She showed great interest in going to the church and taking part in the Mass and other forms of popular devotions. The superior of the Franciscan Clarist Convent in Pulluvazhy, Sr. Bosco testifies that Sr. Rani Maria was a good-natured girl and she frequented the catechism classes in full earnestness. She started her studies in the Kalari (The traditional form of pre-primary education) and continued with it for two years. Then she joined the Lower Primary School at Pulluvazhy. She was smart and fared well both in studies and in sports. She did well in all subjects; studied by heart stories and poems from the text- books, the multiplication table, and began to learn English.
After primary schooling she joined the Jayakeralam High School managed by P.Govindappillai. The education imparted there by famous teachers stood her in good stead to grow in knowledge and wisdom. Even during his school days she helped her parents in the farm. Jokingly she used to tell her brother: "You are studying so much. It is of no use. Do some work and then study." She was very enthusiastic about helping out also in the household chores.
In view of a good result in the SSLC Examination, her parents sent her to the St. Joseph's H.S. Trippunithura. One of her companions Philo (Sr.Philcy) was already studying in this school. Under the supervision and guidance of the nuns, her life in the school and in the hostel turned out to be very conducive to her spiritual and intellectual growth. She completed her studies successfully. She obtained her Bachelor's Degree in Sociology in 1982 from the Bhopal University and her Master's Degree in the same subject in 1989 from the Riva University.