Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker

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Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker was an Ezhava warrior who lived in the 19th century in Kerala, South India and fought against caste oppression by the upper castes. His original name was Kalisseril Velayutha Chekavar.[1]

Early life[edit]

Velayutha Chekavar (1825 - Jan 1874) was born in the affluent Kaalisseril Tharavadu in Arattupuzha, Karthikappally Taluk. The Chekavars of the family were fierce warriors. The family was famous for their proficiency in Kalaripayattu, Ayurveda, Astrology etc. The Tharavadu was a big matrilineal family following Keralas famous Marumakkathayam. His mother's family deity was Kaalisseril Kali and followed serpent worship. There were four big Sarpa Kavu's surrounding the Tharavadu. His grandfather Vallikadavil Perumal Chekavan(Perumalchekon or Perumalchan) was even proficient in Tulunadan kalari techniques which was not common in Southern style of Kalaripayattu.[1] His parents died in his childhood itself. Little Velayudhan studied Ayurveda and Astrology from family Asans(trainers) in addition to Sanskrit and Kalaripayattu including Tulunadan techniques) from his grandfather. He married Velumpy of Varanapally in 1845. He moved to the house in Mangalam after the Marriage. His wife's matrilineal Tharavadu in Mangalam was a traditional teakwood Naalukettu.[2] He had been 7 feet tall, muscular, very fair skinned.[3][4] He caught hold of the thief who robbed a Salagramam(Hindu sacred stone) from the Tantri of Sree Padmanabhaswamy Temple Tharananaloor Namboothiripad, during his travel to Thiruvananthapuram through Kayamkulam lake, as per the request of the Maharaja of Travancore. As a compliment the Maharaja gave him the title of Panickan. Later it was modified as Panicker.[2]


He learned Kathakali, considered to be a savarna art, from one of his uncles who was a Kathakali lover. He started a Kathakali troupe with the help of Tharananaloor Namboothiripad who became his close friend after the incident at Kayamkulam lake. He started a Kathakali Yogam (Kalisseril Kaliyogam)to study Kathakali for those who belonged to the Ezhava community. Mritwe patter, a Kongana Brahmin belonging to Ambalapuzha Purakkat, was appointed in his Kathakali yogam. Mritwe Patter was a famous teacher for teaching Kottayam Kathakali. Another Kathakali teacher Ambalapuzha Madhava Kurup, an officer of Chempakasseri Raja was also there to supervise this Kathakali Yogam. Out of his seven children, six of them studied Kathakali and one of them studied music. Many persons got training from this Kathakali Yogam. Kunhacha Panicker(famous for Kirathathil Kaattalan), Veloor Vattam Kesava Marar(Chenda), Manakkadan Kunhambu Gurikkal, and several others... This Kaliyogam existed till his death in the year 1049( Danu 24th).

Revolt against caste subjugation[edit]

He had flouted caste prohibitions and restrictions since childhood, requiring Ezhavas who lived in his area under his protection to do likewise, for example by using public roads. At the time of the 1850s breast cloth controversies, he commanded all Channar women in his area to defy royal prohibition upon covering upper body and had bought and distributed upper cloths to all Avarna women in Kayamkulam market. When some high status Nambudiri Brahmin men later intimidated covered Ezhava woman, tearing breast-cloth away, he killed them with a sword.[3][4] On another occasion, dressed like a Brahmin he had gone to Guruvayur temple (even today's context it's the most Orthodox Hindu temple), and spent ten days learning puja and installion of temple deities. During that period, non-Nambudiris were never allowed to learn puja and installion of temple deities. When his identity was uncovered by a horrified and furious Brahmin, he threw a bag of gold onto the table saying, "Yes, I am a Panicker; take this gold for your services." He ran off after attacking some Savarna temple officials. The irate temple officials chased him as far as Cherthala(not caught).[3][4]

In 1852 he travelled to Goa where he learned Brahminical rites used for temple worship. In 1854, he founded a temple in Mangalathu village. Viswanathan Gurukal of Kandiyur, Mavelikkara installed Sivlinga. And Panicker himself did the pooja. All castes and tribes were allowed to worship there. Panicker built another temple in Cheruvaranam in 1855 (Aruvippuram installation by Sree Narayana Guru was only in 1888).[3][4][5][6] Panicker organised strike for Achipudava (Achipudava is a cloth or Mundu that covers the portion below the knee) and succeeded. Another contribution was the permission granted to lower class women to wear gold ornaments following Mookkuthy Chantha incidence in Pandalam. He also founded a school and a library in Arattupuzha.[7]

He was killed in January 1874 during a boat journey by a group of upper-class people who attacked him from behind during the darkness of night.[7]


  • A Research Foundation was created under the name of Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker is Arattapuzha Velayudha Panicker Research Foundation and Cultural Centre at Mangalam, Alappuzha.[8]
  • Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker Memorial HS Link [1]
  • "Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker Research Foundation and Cultural Center" was organised by a group of intellectuals named Adv.T.D.Kavirajan, Dr.Babuvijayanath (S/o T.K.Madhavan), Bhaskaran Channar, Adv.A.K.Prasanth, S.L.Puram Sadanandan, P.R.Vasu, M.Indira etc. as a registered body under the charitable society act.

"Smaranika - 2005" issued by Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker Research Foundation and Cultural Center in their Alappuzha district meeting held on 10 April 2005.


  1. ^ a b NR Krishanan IAS, Izhavar Annum Innum (Trissur: Seena Publications, 1967), p 119
  2. ^ a b NR Krishanan IAS, Izhavar Annum Innum (Trissur: Seena Publications, 1967), p 120
  3. ^ a b c d Dr Filippo Osella and Caroline Osella, Social Mobility In Kerala: Modernity and Identity in Conflict (Pluto Press, 2000,ISBN 0-7453-1693-X), Page 156 to 158
  4. ^ a b c d Social Mobility In Kerala: Modernity and Identity in Conflict P 156 to 158. Dr Filippo Osella, Caroline Osella (Pluto Press). Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  5. ^ Kenneth W. Jones, Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India (Cambridge University Press, 1989,ISBN 0-521-24986-4), Page 180
  6. ^ Socio-Religious Reform Movements in British India Page 180. Kenneth W. Jones (PCambridge University Press,1989). Retrieved 2007-08-08. 
  7. ^ a b NR Krishanan IAS, Izhavar Annum Innum (Trissur: Seena Publications, 1967), p 121
  8. ^ "Panicker Research Foundation and Cultural Centre". The Hindu (Chennai, India: The Hindu). 2005-01-09. Retrieved 2005-05-01.