Kerala reformation movement

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The Reformation movement in Kerala refers to a socio-cultural movement that began towards the end of 19th century and led to large scale changes in the social outlook of the southern Indian state of Kerala.


The foundations of social changes in Kerala goes back to the 16th century. The formation of Malayalam language in its modern form and the development of the Bhakti movement under the influence of authors like Thunchaththu Ezhuthachan helped break the monopoly of the Brahmins over literature and knowledge.

The arrival of Europeans beginning with Portuguese followed by Dutch, then the English became a catalyst in these changes. The arrival of missionaries from European nations lead to a rise in educational institutions in Kerala and the rise of an educated class among caste groups like Ezhavas.

The changes in the political order of Kerala with the establishment of centralized monarchies in Travancore and Cochin that lead to the decline of old feudal order was also a crucial factor that set the stage for reformation. The Mysorean invasion of Kerala (1766–1792) shook the hold of elites like Brahmins or Namboothiris and Nairs on Kerala society. Mysoreans had almost no regard for the caste structures in Kerala, inevitably most Brahmin and Nair families had to flee to southern Kerala to avoid persecution by Mysorean forces.

In contrast with North India, enlightenment in Kerala was driven by lower castes. Narayana Guru, Ayyankali, etc. belonged to caste groups considered lower in the social settings of 19th century Kerala. Hence most of them emphasized the need for abolition of caste system rather than a reformation of caste.[1]


Prominent leaders of Kerala reformation include :

VT Bhattathiripad[edit]

Timeline of revolts and movements[edit]

Renaissance leaders & Timeline[edit]

Kuriakose Elias Chavara (1805–1871)

Father of Literacy in Kerala, School along with every Church system, Pidiyari system

  • Born in Kainakari, alapuzha
  • 1831 : Found CMI India's first Christian priest committee.
  • 1846 : Established first printing press without foreign support in kerala at mannanam. 3rd one in India. named st.joseph's press. First book published was jnanapeeyusham.
  • 1986 : declared beatified.
  • 2014 : declared canonized on 23 November.
  • jeevitham thanne sandesam - visudha chavarayude jeevitham written by M.K. sanu

Vaikunda swamikal / Ayya vaikundar (1809–1851)

Mudichoodum perumal

  • The first social reformer in kerala
  • 1800s : famous disciple ; Thycaud Ayya
  • 1800s : Sama panthi Bhojanam
  • 1823 : Became leader of Upper cloth Revolt, which lead to 1859 Channar revolt
  • 1836 : founded Samatva Samajam.
  • 1838 : imprisoned at Singara thoppu Jail by Swathi thirunnal for calling him "ananthapuri devil" saying Travancore as "rule of Black devils" and British as "rule of White devils."
  • " jathi onn, matham onn, kulam onn, daivam onn, lokam onn "

Thycaud Ayya / subharayan (1814–1909) [Guru of great Gurus']

Shivaraja yogi, Supperintent ayya, Hadayogopadeshta, pandi parayan,

Chattampi Swamikal (1853-1924)

  • 1881 : met Nanu Asan (Guru) at aniyoor temple
  • 1892 : met swami vivekananda
  • main works : jeevakarunya niroopanam, kristhumath niroopanam, kristhumatha chethanam, vedadhikara niroopanam, pracheena malayalam, advaitha chintha padhathi, aadibhasha.

Sree Narayana Guru (1856–1928)

Naanu asan, The second budha,

  • 1881 : guru started school at anju thengu
  • 1887 : built aruvippuram temple.
  • 1888 : Aruvippuram consecration by Narayana Guru
  • 1898 : Vavoottu yogam which was considered as the predecessor of SNDP Yogam was formed on this year.
  • 1903 : Formation of SNDP by guru, who later became 1st and permanent president. (1st secretary; Kumaranasan, 1st vice president; Dr. palpu)
  • 1904 : Founded Sivagiri Mutt
  • 1911 : was declared as The National Saint in the census report of the Travancore
  • 1913 : Advaita ashram at aluva
  • 1916 : Founded Sree Narayan seva ashram at kanchipuram.
  • 1916 : started Sanskrit school at aluva.
  • 1918 : visited Sri Lanka for first time.
  • 1924 : visited vaikom satygraha.
  • "oru jaathi, oru matham, oru daivam manushyanu"

Dr. Ayyathan Gopalan (1861–1948) "Darsarji", Rao Sahib (Title honor given by British)[edit]

  • Social reformer widely known as "Darsarji" . ("Darsar"(ദർസർ) meaning Doctor)
  • Social reformer of Kerala,Physician(Doctor),Writer,Chief surgeon,Medical school professor,Superintendent and in charges of hospitals all over South India(During British rule).
  • Founder of Sugunavardhini Movement (സുഗുണവർധിനി പ്രസ്താനം) and popularized Brahmosamaj in Kerala.
    • 1898 :Populated Brahmo Samaj in Kerala region (First Branch at Calicut; Now Ayathan School which runs under the patronage of Brahmosamaj at Jail road, Calicut)
    • 1900s : Founded "Sugunavardhini movement" to foster human values in children and ignited reform activities to protect the rights of women, children, and the downtrodden sections of society such as Harijan and Dalits in Kerala while providing them with an education.
    • 1900s :Founded Lady Chandhawarkar Elementary School , educating girls and underprivileged sections of society for free. Conducted MisraBhojanam and MisraVivaham through Sugunavardhini movement and Brahmosamaj.
    • 1900s : Tittled his favorite disciple Karat Govinda Menon as "Brahmananda " Sivayogi and P.Kunjiraman as "Brahmavadhi" for involving in Brahmosamaj activities, Vaghbhatananda ,was also his favorite disciple who later on founded Athma vidya sangam.
    • 1910 : Translated Brahmo Dharma (ബ്രഹ്മധർമ്മ)(known as Bible of Brahmo Samaj) into Malayalam.(Originally written by Debendranath Tagore)
    • 1910 : Published his first musical drama book Saranjiniparinayam.(സാരഞ്ജിനി പരിണയം)
    • 1911 : Published his second musical drama book Susheeladukham.(സുശീലാദുഃഖം)
    • 1917 : Highest civilian award given by British government and given Honor title "RAOSAHIB" for the untiring services done for the society and mankind.
    • 1924 :Opened second branch of Brahmosamaj at Alappuzha
    • works : He propagated his reform activities by conducting dramas, making awareness to public, and also through his writings .,Saranjiniparinayam&Susheeladukham (musical drama), Plaguefarse(drama) were his famous dramas which had been played by Kottakkal P.S.Warier nadaka sangam (P.S.V. Natyasangham) throughout Kerala for many years.
    • Famous disciple: Bhramananda swami Sivayogi, Vaghbhatanandaguru, Brahmavadhi P. Kunjiraman .

Agamananda Swami (1896–1961)

Krishnam Nambyathiri

  • 1935 : First asram founded Sanadhana Dharma Vidhyarthi Sangam
  • 1936 : Established Kerala unit of Sree Rama Krishnasram.
  • 1900s : active member of Ramakrishna mission in Kerala unit.
  • 1900s : Started Sanskrit school Brahmanandodayam.
  • 1900s : Started Magazine 'Prabudha Keralam'.

Ananda Theerthan (1905–1987)

Anada Shenoy

  • 1900s : Direct Disciple of Sree Narayana Guru.
  • 1933 : Founder of Jathi Nashini Sabha.
  • 1933 : first president of Jathi Nashini sabha was K. Kelappan.

Brahmananda shiva yogi / Karat Govinda menon(1852–1929)

'Guru of Atheists', purusha simham, Swami of alathur

  • born at Palakkad
  • Started his reform activities through Brahmosamaj founded by Dr. Ayyathan Gopalan .Dr. Ayyathan Gopalan titled Karat Govinda menon as Brahmananda Sivayogi for the untiring services done through Brahmosamaj. Sivayogi was one of the favorite disciple of Dr.Gopalan.
  • 1893 : founded 'Siddha rasam' at alathur
  • 1899 : " Stree vidya poshini" book for spreading awareness of woman education.
  • 1918 : formed Ananda Maha Sabha
  • 1900s : founded "Ananda Matham" religion
  • 1900s : famous disciple - Vagbatanandan

Vagbhatanandan / V.K. Gurukkal(1885–1939)

Vyleri kunjikannan, balaguru

  • Born in patyam, kannur
  • Started his reform activities through Brahmosamaj founded by Dr. Ayyathan Gopalan in the year 1898 at Calicut. Vaghbhatananda was the favorite disciple of Dr.Gopalan who wrote the book "KausallyaGopalan" as a tribute to Kausallyammal wife of Dr.Gopalan ,who was the backbone behind every reform activities of his guru Dr. Ayyathan Gopalan.
  • 1906 :Tathva prakashika Ashramam Kozhikode
  • 1917 : founded Athma vidya sangam at vatakara, slogan > "unaruvin, aghileshane smarippin, kshanamezunnelpin, aneethiyod ethirpin"
  • 1921 : Abhinava keralam The journal of Atma vidya sangam
  • 1900s : became disciple of Sree Narayana Guruhis
  • 1900s : founder of ULCCS (uraalunkal Labour Contract Coperative Society) CurrentlyThe Largest Labour contract in India
  • 1927 : Preethi Bhojanam
  • works : Abhinava keralam, adyathma yudham, atma vidya kahalam, Prarthananjali, kotiyoor ulsava paatu, shivayogi vilasam,

Arattuppuzha Velayudha Panicker (1825–1874)

kallissery Velayudha Chekavar, panicker Title was given by Maharaja of Travancore,

He actually belongs to Ezhava community

  • 1860 : founded "Kallissery Kadhakali Yogam" art form to break the savarna monopoly.
  • 1800s : Mukkuthi agitation
  • 1800s : Achipudava agitation at Kayamkulam
  • 1874 : Got killed by Upper caste men during a boat travel at Kayamkulam.

Kurumban Daivathan (1880–1927)


  • 1917 : Hindu Pulaya Samajam
  • 1900s : Navodhansthinte surya thejass (Babu Thomas)

Pampadi John joseph (1887–1940)

  • 1921 : Founded Travancore cheramar maha sabha
  • 1900s : magazine Sadhu jana Doothan
  • 1900s : Cheruma Boy book

C. V. Kunhiraman (1871–1949)

  • 1911 : Kerala Koumudi from mayyanad, ideas of Guru published first time in koumudi
  • 1900s : ezhava koumudi
  • "openion is not an iron pestle"

Mahathma Ayyankali (1863–1941)

Ghandiji called 'pulaya raja' and 'untiring warrior' , Indira Gandhi called 'Great son of India',

'Aali kathiya theepori' , Father of modern Dalit, known as Kerala's Spartacus.

  • born at venganoor
  • 1893 : villu vandi samaram (right to use the public roads by the lower cast)
  • 1904 : started school for pulays at venganoor.
  • 1907 : Sadhujana paripalana sangam
  • 1909 : south India's First organized rebellion (karshaka samaram)
  • 1911 : First Harijan member to enroll in Sree moolam praja sabha
  • 1915 : Leader of Kallu mala Samaram (perinaatu lahala) (right to use ornaments other than stone-made ornaments by the lower cast)
  • 1915 : Leader of Thonnooramandu samaram (ooruttambalam lahala / pulaya lahala) (right to study along with upper cast children)
  • 1916 : Kandala lahala ( ayyankali fired the school at ooruttambalam, where He tried to get admission for a lower caste girl named Panchami)
  • 1980 : Indira Gandhi unveiled Ayyankali Statue at vellayambalam, architect Ezra David.

Dr. Palpu (1863–1950)

padmanabhan, 'Political father of Ezhava community'

  • 1800s : first Medical graduate from ezhava community
  • 1800s : served as Jail superintent in Mysore
  • 1882 : Met Swami vivekananda at Mysore.
  • 1800s : The book " Treatment of Thiyyas in travancore"
  • 1891 : The third signature in Malayali memorial (Mass petition to Sree moolam maharaja)
  • 1896 : founded Greater Ezhava association
  • 1896 : founded 'Travancore Ezhava Sabha'
  • 1896 : sep3 Ezhava Memorial was submitted to Moolam thirunnal (signed by 13176 members)
  • 1900 : Second Ezhava Memorial was Submitted to Lord Curzon
  • 1903 : first vice president of SNDP
  • 1900s : Malabar economic Union was founded.
  • 1900s : son of Dr.palpu - Nataraja Guru founded Sree Narayana Gurukulam
  • 1950 : Died on 25 January the day before Republic Day.


kumaru, sneha gayakan, ashaya gambheeran, leelavathi called him 'divya kokilam',

Joseph mundassery called him Viplavathinte Shukra nakshatram.

  • Born in Kayikkara
  • 1907 : Veena poov
  • 1909 : first poet to become member of travancore legislative council.
  • 1922 : Only poet to become Mahakavi without writing a Mahakaavyam.
  • 1924 : last work " Karuna "
  • 1924 : died in accident of the 'redeemer' boat in pallana river
  • works : duravastha(aboutmalabar kalapam) leela, prarodhanam, chandala bikshuki

Sahodaran Ayyappan / K. Ayyappan (1889–1968)

  • Born in Cherai, vypin, ernakulam.
  • 1917 : Sahodara sangam
  • 1917 : Misra bhojanam under sahodara sangam at cherai
  • 1900s : became disciple of Sree Narayana Guru
  • 1900s : Formation of Vidya poshini sabha
  • 1938 : Socialist party Established
  • 1964 : Sree Narayana Sevika Samajam in Aluva.
  • weeklies : velakkaran, yukthivaadi, sahodaran
  • works : kaasi mahatmyam, sahodari kurathi.
  • " No cast, No reliegion, No god for man."

Pandit Karuppan(1885–1939)

shankaran, sahithya kudeeram, Lincoln of Kerala,

kerala varma called him 'vidwan', maharaja of cochin called him 'Kavi thilakam'.

T.K. Madhavan (1885–1930)

"Megha Jyothis"

  • 1902 : Ezhava association was started
  • 1900s : The founder of Temple entry movement
  • 1900s : Undeniable leader of Eradication of untouchability
  • 1915 : Started Deshabhimani News Paper From Kollam
  • 1923 : Only Malayali to attend INC session at Kakkinada, Presented a resolution on Eradication of untouchability.
  • 1924 : Main leader of Vaikkom Satyagraha.

Vakkom Abdul Khadar Moulavi (1873–1932)

The father of Muslim renaissance in Kerala

  • 1905 : swadeshabhimani news paper started from Anjutheng, tvm on Jan19
  • 1906 : Magazine Muslim
  • 1918 : Magazine Al-Islam
  • 1922 : formed Kerala Muslim Aikya Sangham at Kodungallur, thrissur
  • 1931 : formed Islamic Publishing House.
  • 1931 : Magazine Deepika
  • 1900s : formed Islam Dharma Paripalana Sangham based on SNDP model.
  • 1900s : formed Dharma Poshini sabha
  • works : Quran Translation, Islam matha sidhantha Samgraham, dau-u-saheb

Swadeshabhimani Ramakrishna pillai (1878–1916)

Keralan (pen name)

K. Kelappan (1889–1971)

A K Gopalan (1904-1977) AKG

  • Born in Perelassery
  • 1931 : volunteer captain of Guruvayoor Satyagraha
  • 1936 : Pattini jatha (kannur to madras)
  • 1937 : Malabar jatha (calicut to Travancore)
  • 1900s : first leader of opposition in Loksabha
  • 1958 : first Indian coffie House started
  • 1960 : Karshaka jatha / peasant march (kazargod to travancore)
  • 1900s : crusader of downtroddens
  • 1900s : ente jeevitha kadha, in the cause of the people,(auto biography) manninu vendi, ente poorvakala smaranakal,

See also[edit]


  1. ^ PANIKKAR, K. N. "Three phases of Indian renaissance". Retrieved 4 March 2019.

3. R.Ponnu, Sri Vaikunda Swamigal and the struggle for Social Equality in South India,Madurai, 2000