Vaikom Satyagraha

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Vaikom Satyagraha
Leaders of Vaikom Satyagraha.jpg
Leaders of Vaikom Satyagraha including T. K. Madhavan (sitting : middle row, last as one views the photograph) K. Kumar (standing last in the row behind TK Madhavan : bearded) K. P. Kesava Menon (sitting, third) and Amachadi Thevan .
DurationMarch, 1924 to November, 1925
LocationVaikom Temple, Travancore
TypeNonviolent agitation
MotivePublic access
Organised by
OutcomeMixed results

Vaikom Satyagraha, from 30 March 1924 to 23 November 1925, was a nonviolent agitation for access to the prohibited public environs of the Vaikom Temple in the Kingdom of Travancore. Kingdom of Travancore was known for its rigid and oppressive caste system and hence Swami Vivekananda called Travancore a "lunatic asylum".[1][2][3][4][5][6] The campaign, led by Congress leaders T. K. Madhavan, K. Kelappan and K. P. Kesava Menon, was noted for the active support and participation offered by different communities and a variety of activists.[4]

Most of the great temples in the princely state of Travancore had for years forbidden lower castes (untouchables) not just from entering, but also from walking on the surrounding roads.[7][8] The agitation was conceived by the Ezhava Congress leader and a follower of Sri Narayana Guru, T. K. Madhavan. It demanded the right of the Ezhavas and 'untouchables' to use roads around the Vaikom Temple.[5]

Mahatma Gandhi himself visited Vaikom in March, 1925.[4] Travancore government eventually constructed new roads near the temple for the use of lower castes. The roads, however, kept the lower castes adequately away from the near environs of the Vaikom Temple and the temple remained closed to the lower castes.[4][5][9][10] After the intervention of Mahatma Gandhi, the agitation was given up and a compromise reached with Regent Sethu Lakshmi Bayi who released all those arrested and opened the north, south and west public roads leading to Vaikom Mahadeva Temple to all castes.She refused to open the eastern road.The compromise was criticized by E. V. Ramasamy "Periyar" and some others. Only in 1936, after the Temple Entry Proclamation, was access to the eastern road and entry into the temple allowed to the lower castes.[11][4][5] Vaikom Satyagraha markedly brought the method of nonviolent public protest to Kerala.[5]

Background[edit]

T. K. Madhavan
  • T. K. Madhavan, an Ezhava leader, first advanced the question of temple entry of lower castes in an editorial in Deshabhimani newspaper in December, 1917.[6] Temple entry of lower castes was discussed and resolutions were introduced at meetings of S N D P Yogam and the Travancore Assembly between 1917 and 1920.[6] In 1919, an assembly of nearly 5,000 Ezhavas demanded the right to entry into all Hindu temples managed by the Government of Travancore.[9]
  • In November, 1920, T. K. Madhavan, walked beyond the regulatory notice boards on a road near the Vaikom Temple. He later publicly announced his defiance to the district magistrate.[6] Madhavan's later temple-entry meetings in Travancore instigated counter-agitations from caste Hindus.[9]
  • T. K. Madhavan met with "Mahatma" Gandhi at Tirunelveli in September 1921 to inform him of the predicament of Ezhavas in Kerala.[12] Gandhi, though initially oblivious to the position of the community in state, offered his support for the movement ("you must enter temples and court imprisonment if law interferes").[6]
  • At the 1923 Indian National Congress session at Kakinada, a resolution was passed which committed the party to work for 'the eradication of untouchability'.[12] This resolution was introduced by T. K. Madhavan.[12][9] The resolution also stated that 'temple entry was the birthright of all Hindus'.[9]
  • In January 1924, Congress leader K. Kelappan convened an 'Anti-untouchability Committee' within the K P C C.[9][6] Kelappan later toured southern Kerala with a contingent of Congress leaders from Malabar District.[9] Madhavan also succeeded in getting the finances, the Congress support and pan-India attention for the satyagraha.[12][13] The S N D P Yogam also conveyed its approval of the agitation.[13]

The agitation[edit]

A protest march during Vaikom Satyagraha

Vaikom Siva Temple, like most other great temples of Kerala, had for years forbidden lower castes and the 'untouchables' not just from entering, but also from walking on the surrounding roads.[6]

  • On 30 March 1924, a Nair, a Pulaya and an Ezhava activist, followed by thousands of others, most of whom in khadar, attempted to walk on the Vaikom temple roads. The three were arrested by the Travancore police.[9][6] More Congress activists, repeating the same act, were arrested by the police till the 10th April.[9] Among the arrested where K. P. Kesava Menon, T. K. Madhavan, and K. Kelappan.[9][5][6] The other leaders who were arrested and convicted included TR Krishna Swami Iyer[14], K. Kumar [15][16] [17], AK Pillai[18] , Chittezhathu Sanku Pillai, Barrister George Joseph, EV Ramaswami Naikker also known as Periyar, Aiyyamuthu Gaudar and K Velayudha Menon [19].

Demonstrators marched each day to the Travancore police barricades (erected to "prevent clashes between communities"). They blocked the road, sat before the police lines on temple's four entrances and sang patriotic songs. Later in the campaign, activists undertook public fasts.[5][6] During this period, some caste Hindus spurred attacks by ruffians on the protesters.[6]

  • The events at Vaikom attracted pan-India attention. Congress leader C. Rajagopalachari and E. V. Ramasamy "Periyar", then associated with the Congress, arrived at Vaikom and offered advice to the activists.[6] Most of the prominent Nair Congress leaders were subsequently arrested and Christian (Congress leader) George Joseph assumed the charge of the agitation.[9]
  • The local Christian leadership was alienated by a statement by Gandhi asking them to keep clear from 'a Hindu affair' (April, 1924).[4][9] Sikh Akali activisits from Amritsar had also arrived at Vaikom to establish free food kitches to the satyagrahis (April, 1924).[9] Gandhi called for the closure of the Sikh kitchens.[9] E. V. Ramasamy "Periyar", then with the Congress, also participated in the satyagraha and was imprisoned twice.[20][21] The participation earned Periyar the title "the Hero of Vaikom".[22] Some radical participants such as K. Aiyappan associated themselves with forms of Communism.[23]
  • Mulam Thirunal, the king of Travancore, died in August, 1924.[12] At the advice of Gandhi, caste Hindus marched from Vaikom to Trivandrum to present a memorial to the ruler of Travancore (stating that caste Hindus did not object to lower castes using the roads) (starting from November, 1924).[6][5] Mannath Padmanabha Pillai, leader of the Nair community, led the second march to Trivandrum in 1925.[24] A resolution to allow Ezhavas to use roads near the temple was defeated by one vote in the Travancore Legislative Council (opposed by all official members, introduced in October 1924, voted in February, 1925).[9][6]

Settlement[edit]

Gandhi in Cochin (during Vaikom Satyagraha)

"Mahatma" Gandhi, who had sent goodwill telegrams to the organizers, himself visited Vaikom in March, 1925.[4][9] Gandhi held discussions with all parties (the protesters, the Namboodiri Brahmins, Sri Narayana Guru, and the queen of Travancore).[6][25] The police subsequently was withdrawn on the understanding that the activists would not enter the banned roads.[6]

  • The Vaikom Satyagraha settled with a compromise which allowed the entry of lower caste Hindus to (the newly constructed) roads on three sides of the Vaikom Temple. The other side and the temple remained closed to the lower castes (November, 1925).[12][26] The new roads also kept the lower castes adequately away from the near environs of the Vaikom Temple.[4][5]
  • The Vaikom Satyagraha had failed to convince the Ezhava leader Sri Narayana Guru.[27][9] The Guru wanted activists to 'not only walk along the prohibited roads but enter the temple'.[27][9] The word on the street hinted that the Narayana Guru had distanced himself the from 'the activities of the S N D P'.[9] He said to an Ezhava journalist,[23]

The volunteers standing outside the barriers in heavy rains will serve no useful purpose...They should scale over the barricades and not only walk along the prohibited roads but enter all temples... It should be made practically impossible for anyone to observe untouchability.

— Sri Narayana Guru (June, 1924)

Legacy[edit]

See also[edit]

References[edit]

  1. ^ "God's own challenge". The Indian Express. 24 December 2018. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  2. ^ N. Vanamamalai; Nā Vān̲amāmalai (1981). Interpretation of Tamil Folk Creations. Dravidian Linguistics Association.
  3. ^ P. Radhakrishnan (2002). India, the Perfidies of Power: A Social Critique. Vedam ebooks. p. 245. ISBN 978-81-7936-003-3. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h Sarkar, Sumit (1989). Modern India: 1885–1947. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 229 and 244. ISBN 9781349197125.
  5. ^ a b c d e f g h i j Jeffrey, Robin (1992). Politics, Women and Well-Being: How Kerala became 'a Model'. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 108 and 118–19. ISBN 978-1-349-12252-3.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p Jeffrey, Robin (1976). "Temple-Entry Movement in Travancore, 1860-1940". Social Scientist. 4 (8): 13–16. doi:10.2307/3516377. JSTOR 3516377.
  7. ^ Jeffrey, Robin (1976). "Temple-Entry Movement in Travancore, 1860-1940". Social Scientist. 4 (8): 14. doi:10.2307/3516377. JSTOR 3516377.
  8. ^ Mathew, George (2018). "God's Own Challenge". The Indian Express.
  9. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l m n o p q r s t Menon, Dilip M. (1994). Caste, Nationalism and Communism in South India: Malabar, 1900 - 1948. Cambridge University Press. pp. 81–82.
  10. ^ Sarkar, Sumit (1989). Modern India: 1885–1947. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 229 and 244. ISBN 9781349197125.
  11. ^ Anita Diehl (1977). E. V. Ramaswami Naicker-Periyar: A Study of the Influence of a Personality in Contemporary South India. Esselte studium. p. 24. ISBN 978-91-24-27645-4. Retrieved 27 July 2021.
  12. ^ a b c d e f Jeffrey, Robin (1976). The Decline of Nayar Dominance: Society and Politics in Travancore, 1847 - 1908. Holmes & Meier Publishers. pp. 328, 258–59.
  13. ^ a b Jeffrey, Robin (1976). "Temple-Entry Movement in Travancore, 1860-1940". Social Scientist. 4 (8): 17. doi:10.2307/3516377. JSTOR 3516377.
  14. ^ T. R. Krishnaswamy Iyer, http://www.keralaculture.org/historic-heritage-gallery/tr-krishnaswamy-iyer/1085 , Department of Cultural Affairs, Govt of Kerala retrieved on 02 February 2023
  15. ^ Vaikom Sathyagraha Rekhakal: Adv. P. Harikumar -Sahithya Pravarthaka Co-Operative Society Ltd: 2019 : pages 160, 217, 298, 299, 353
  16. ^ Who is Who of Freedom Fighters in Kerala, Regional Records Committee 1975, Government of Kerala : Page/ Entry No 272
  17. ^ The History of Trade Union Movement in Kerala : K. Ramachandran Nair : Kerala Institute of Labour and Employment - 2006: (also available is the e-book version at : https://indianlabourarchives.org retrieved on 30 Jan 2023: page no: 436)
  18. ^ https://ml.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/%E0%B4%8E.%E0%B4%95%E0%B5%86._%E0%B4%AA%E0%B4%BF%E0%B4%B3%E0%B5%8D%E0%B4%B3 , Malayalam : Retrieved 2 February 2023
  19. ^ The History of Trade Union Movement in Kerala : K. Ramachandran Nair : Kerala Institute of Labour and Employment - 2006: (also available is the e-book version at : https://indianlabourarchives.org retrieved on 30 Jan 2023: page no: 436)
  20. ^ Kent, David. "Periyar". Atheist Community of Austin. Archived from the original on 15 June 2010.
  21. ^ Deihl, Anita (1977). E.V. Ramasamy Naicker-Periyar: A Study of the Influence of a Personality in Contemporary South India. Esselte Studium. pp. 22–24.
  22. ^ Eugene F. Irschick, Politics and Social Conflict in South India: The Non-Brahmin Movement and Tamil Separatism, 1916–1929 (Berkeley:University of California Press, 1969), pp. 268–69.
  23. ^ a b Jeffrey, Robin (1976). "Temple-Entry Movement in Travancore, 1860-1940". Social Scientist. 4 (8): 17–18. doi:10.2307/3516377. JSTOR 3516377.
  24. ^ a b Jeffrey, Robin (1992). Politics, Women and Well-Being: How Kerala became 'a Model'. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. 104 and 108. ISBN 978-1-349-12252-3.
  25. ^ Mahadev Desai, The Epic of Travancore (Ahmedabad: Navajivan Karyalaya, 1937), pp. 17–21.
  26. ^ M.S.A. Rao, Social Movements and Social Transformation: A Study of Two Backward Classes Movements in India (first published in 1979: reprint New Delhi: Manohar, 1987), p. 66.
  27. ^ a b Sarkar, Sumit (1989). Modern India: 1885–1947. Palgrave Macmillan. p. 244. ISBN 9781349197125.
  28. ^ Jeffrey, Robin (1992). Politics, Women and Well-Being: How Kerala became 'a Model'. Palgrave Macmillan. pp. xv–xvii. ISBN 978-1-349-12252-3.

Further reading[edit]

  • Jeffrey, Robin (1992). Politics, Women and Well-Being: How Kerala became 'a Model'. Palgrave Macmillan. ISBN 978-1-349-12252-3.
  • T. K. Ravindran, Eight Furlongs of Freedom (New Delhi: Light and Life Publishers, 1980)
  • George G. Joseph, George Joseph: The Life and Times of a Kerala Christian Nationalist (Hyderabad: Orient Longman, 2003)
  • Robin Jeffrey, 'The Social Origins of a Caste Association, 1875–1905: The Founding of the S. N. D. P. Yogam', South Asia, Volume 14, Number 1, 1975.
  • Menon, Dilip M. (1994). Caste, Nationalism and Communism in South India: Malabar, 1900 - 1948. Cambridge University Press.
  • King, Mary E. (2015). Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India: The 1924-25 Vykom Satyagraha and Mechanisms of Change. Oxford University Press.

External links[edit]