Temple Entry Proclamation
The Temple Entry Proclamation issued by Maharaja Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma and his Dewan(Prime Minister) Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer in 1936 abolished the ban on low-caste people or avarnas from entering Hindu temples in the state of Travancore (now part of Kerala, India). The proclamation was a milestone in the history of Travancore and later in rest of Kerala as well. Today, the Temple Entry proclamation day is considered as social reformation day by the Government of Kerala.
In Travancore the movements for at least the reduction of the severities of caste, if not its total abolition, have been popular. The teachings of Sree Narayana Guru, and other social reformers gave a momentum to the forces and the tolerant policy pursued by the state in recognising the legitimate claims of the backward communities. The promulgation of the Temple Entry Proclamation was a reform of far-reaching importance, was a milestone in the history of Travancore and later in rest of Kerala as well.
One of the important movements that led to temple entry was Vaikom Sathyagraha. It was conducted in order to get the permission to use the roads near temples for the dalits as well. The right for ‘untouchables’ to enter the temple roads and use other spaces which were exclusively meant for the upper caste people were the initial demands of the agitators who later on raised the demand for temple entry. The movement was not confined to a single event. It went through a number of stages in the form of Vaikom Satyagraha which took place in Travancore in 1924, the Guruvayur Sathyagraha(in Malabar) of 1931, and the declarations in Kochi in 1947 gave the lower castes access to temples. The movement was not confined to any single section of the society even though it was for the cause of a particular section of it. The movement never turned violent and was marked by its peaceful nature. The teachings of Sree Narayana Guru, the efforts of Dr. Palpu, T. K. Madhavan, Mannathu Padmanabhan, K. Kelappan, Ayyankaali in the Sree Moolam Assembly, poet Kumaran Aasan etc. gave a momentum to the movement.
It received national attention when Mahatma Gandhi visited Vaikom to support the leaders of the sathyagraha. Gandhi met the Regent Maharani as well as the then minor King Sree Chithira Thirunal. He discussed the matter of temple entry as well as Vaikom Sathyagraha with the regent. As a result, the roads were opened for the use of dalits as well, it also served as a catalyst for the temple entry.
Temple Entry Committee
Sree Chithira Thirunal in 1932 appointed a committee to examine the question of Temple Entry for the dalits. The committee expressed their opinion that a panel of learned persons, well versed in the theory and practice of Hinduism, should be summoned, and that the reform might be effected by the ruler with their approval. They also suggested certain methods by which the rigour of the custom excluding the dalits from the temple might be softened but according to Shodhaganga website, Maharajah Sree Chithira Thirunal was in favour of full temple entry.
The President of India, Dr. K. R. Narayanan in 1992 in his speech commented about Sree Chithira Thirunal's attitude towards Temple Entry as follows : "Many of the things, the Maharajah did, were influenced his mother and by his Dewan, Sir C.P. Ramaswamy Iyer. But, behind all this, there was a mind of his own. There was a philosophy and personality of his own. This was shown by one fact. During the Vaikom Sathyagraha, Mahatma Gandhi visited Kerala. At that time, Sree Chithira Thirunal was a young man, and he has not ascended the throne. Gandhiji asked "When you attain majority and when you assume full authority, will you allow Harijans to enter the temple". The twelve year old Maharajah said without hesitation "Certainly". This was not the result of anybody's advice. This arose from his own mind; from his own thinking and that is why I say, in spite of all the advice and influences in which he was enveloped, he had a mind and he had a policy of his own."
With an outlook which no Indian monarch had been able to entertain for thousands of years, Sree Chithira Thirunal signed the Proclamation. It was on the eve of the Maharajah's 24th birthday in 1112 (1936 A.D.) that the edict was promulgated. The Proclamation was received throughout India with delight and admiration; to the Hindus it was matter of pride and fresh hope. Dr. C. P. Ramaswami Aiyer referred to the day of the Proclamation as a unique occasion in the history of India and specially of Hinduism. Mahatma Gandhi wrote an open letter to Chithira Thirunal which read, “People call me Mahatma, but you have rendered real service and you deserve the title Mahatma. He expressed the hope that "all other Hindu Princes will follow the noble example set by this far-off ancient Hindu State.".” The letter was published in the Collected Works of Mahatma Gandhi in the 98th volume. The Prime Minister of Madras described the Proclamation as the "greatest religious reform in India after the time of Asoka".
The Royal Proclamation
Profoundly convinced of the truth and validity of our religion, believing that it is based on divine guidance and on all-comprehending toleration, knowing that in its practice it has throughout the centuries, adapted itself to the needs of changing times, solicitous that none of our Hindu subjects should, by reason of birth or caste or community, be denied the consolation and the solace of the Hindu faith, we have decided and hereby declare, ordain and command that, subject to such rules and conditions as may be laid down and imposed by us for preserving their proper atmosphere and maintaining their rituals and observances, there should henceforth be no restriction placed on any Hindu by birth or religion on entering or worshipping at temples controlled by us and our Government.
Temple Entry In Cochin And Malabar
Both the Maharajah Of Cochin as well as Zamorin Of Calicut didn't had the positive attitude of Sree Chithira Thirunal, and were staunch opponents of temple entry for dalits. Despite repeated requests and petitions, neither considered the matter of temple entry. The Cochin Maharajah went to the extent of declaring the whole people of Travancore as untouchables and forbade any Travancore citizen from entering temples under the control of Cochin government due to the fear of pollution. The Cochin ruler even forbade the rituals like Arattu(holy bath) and Para(holy procession) in Tripunithura and Chottanikkara Temples. Even when temple entry was given in 1947, the Cochin Maharajah made an exemption clause in the Bill so as to keep his family temple "Sree Poornathrayeesha" out of the purview of temple entry. This ban was lifted in 1949 after the Thiru-kochi union. The Malabar Temple Entry Act was formed in 1938 but the Bill became an Act only on June 2, 1947. The attitude of the Zamorin was not favourable to temple entry in Malabar. The Zamorin had no wishes to change the existing customs and usages in temples. For this reason, when hearing the news of the Travancore Temple Entry proclamation from the 'Mathrubhumi' news reporter he said that the Travancore Maharajah had freedom to give temple entry right to his subjects. But he was unable to do so as he Zamorin was only a trustee of the temples which were under the supervision of Hindu Religions Endowment Board: and had been pressing the trustees to act without any default in the ancient usages and proceedings of temples. He blamed the 40th Section of the Hindu Religions Act and told that its amendment would be helpful to act him as free. But after hearing about the Bill, Zamorin send a memorandum to the authorities claiming no one had the authority to take decisions regarding temple entry as they are private properties. This clearly shows Zamorin was also against temple entry. Malabar region finally got temple entry only in 1947 after India's independence.
There is also another version of the story which claims that In 1896 a Ezhava Memorial signed by more than 13,000 representatives of the Hindu Ezhava community of Travancore in Kerala submitted to the government a petition to be recognized the right of the Ezhavas to enter government service jobs, the upper caste Hindus of the state prevailed upon the Maharajah not to concede the petition.
In dejection, many of the Ezhavas embraced Christianity. When it seemed that the fight for equity had not gone anywhere, the leadership threatened that they would convert en masse, rather than stay as helots of Hindu society. Dewan Sir C. P. Ramaswami Iyer, realizing the imminent danger, prompted the Maharajah to issue the proclamation.
- Religion and Social Conflict in South Asia By Bardwell L. Smith, p42, Google book
- K. R. Narayanan, His Excellency. "'INCARNATION OF MODESTY'- First Sree Chithira Thirunal Memorial Speech delivered at Kanakakunnu Palace, Trivandrum on 25-10-1992". Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- KERALA PRESS, ACADEMY. "Madhavan T.K.". Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- Special, Correspondent (July 22, 2009). "Extreme injustice led to Vaikom Satyagraha, says Romila Thapar". THE HINDU. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- Srikandath, Sivaram (October 21, 2012). "The New Savarnas". manorama online. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- Digital Concepts Cochin, BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for; Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam. "TEMPLE ENTRY FREEDOM IN KERALA". shodhganga.inflibnet.ac. CHAPTER VI: 1–46. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- K. R. Narayanan, His Excellency. "'INCARNATION OF MODESTY'- First Sree Chithira Thirunal Memorial Speech delivered at Kanakakunnu Palace, Trivandrum on 25-10-1992". Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Features, Express (3 August 2013). "Setting the record right". THE NEW INDIAN EXPRESS. Retrieved 17 February 2014.
- 'The Casabianca of Travancore', on March 26, 2002, THE HINDU - "Incidentally it came as a surprise to many at the time that the then Maharaja of adjacent Cochin State who was later applauded by Nehru for being the first princely ruler in 1946 to constitute a responsible government was a staunch opponent of temple entry."
- Digital Concepts Cochin, BeeHive Digital Concepts Cochin for; Mahatma Gandhi University Kottayam. "TEMPLE ENTRY FREEDOM IN KERALA". shodhganga.inflibnet.ac. CHAPTER VI: 1–46. Retrieved 14 February 2014.
- Dr .Palpu, Treatment of Tiyas in Travancore (Thiruvanathapuram).[when?][where?]