Temple Entry Proclamation
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The Temple Entry Proclamation issued by Maharaja Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma and his Dewan 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).
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.
In Travancore the movements for the mitigation of the severities of caste, if not its total abolition, have been popular. The teachings of Sree Narayana Guru gave a momentum to the forces which were generated by the extension of western education among the massess 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, not only to the teeming millions of Travancore but a momentous act of emancipation and hope to the whole of India.
The Maharaja had earlier in his reign commanded the appointment of a committee to examine the question of Temple Entry for the avarnas, to find out the extent of the demand for reforms, to ascertain the attitude of the savarna castes, to examine the question in the light of the Hindu scriptures and formulate proposals as to the lines on which the reform might be effected. The committee expressed their considered opinion that a parishad 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 avarnas from the temple might be softened. But the Maharaja did not believe in half measures.
With an outlook which no Indian monarch had been able to entertain for a couple of thousands of conservative years, Chitra Thirunal affixed the Sign Manual[clarification needed] to the Proclamation. It was on the eve of the Maharaja's 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. The repercussions of the Proclamation were so great that the Christians and Muslims were equally warm in giving it a hearty reception. 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 expressed the hope that "all other Hindu Princes will follow the noble example set by this far-off ancient Hindu State." The Prime Minister of Madras described the Proclamation as the "greatest religious reform in India after the time of Asoka". The Maharaja gave the biggest charity that any ruler could give to his subjects in opening the doors to every class and creed.
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
- Dr .Palpu, Treatment of Tiyas in Travancore (Thiruvanathapuram).[when?][where?]