Monday, 2 March 2020

''Vaikom Stayagraha'', Kerala and first temple entry of Dalits in India - 01: A synopsis


Vaikom Sri Mahadeva temple, Vaikom, Kerala risholidays.com/

Vaikom Shiva temple, kerala. .mandirmandir.com
Above image: The Vaikom Mahadeva Temple is a famous one in Kerala. This temple, Ettumanoor Shiva Temple and  Kaduthuruthy Thaliyil Mahadeva Temple are well-known Shivasthalams. The belief has been that if a devotee worships at these three temples before 'Ucha pooja',  their wishes would be fulfilled soon.  A sacred place of worship for both Shaivaites and the Vaishnavaites, Vaikom's Shiva also goes by the name of  Vaikkathappan. The Shiva Linga here is believed to be from the ‘Treta yuga’ and considered as one of the oldest temples in Kerala where pooja protocol has not been broken since  the inception of this temple. This temple town became part of Indian  social history where the dalits were, at last, allowed entry into the temple for the first time in India in 1936. Then, Kerala was a Princely  salute state  and an alley of British India. .............
The date 12 November 1936,  was a  milestone not only in the sociopolitical history of Travancore (Kerala), but also of India. A different and distinct pattern of social reformation  emerged just like a certain geometrical pattern is generated  if a kaleidoscope is given a good shake!!  It was on this day  ''the Temple Entry Proclamation'' was issued by Maharajah Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma  despite protests from upper caste Hindus. Both the Maharajah and the then Diwan Sir C.P. Ramaswami Aiyar, a legal luminary and Scholar n Sanskrit  won the appreciation of national leaders especially  Gandhiji who called the poor people as  Harijans (sons of God; now dalit is widely used and not harijans) for boldly introducing this famous temple entry proclamation act and setting the stage for the entry of weaker sections in the society to enter the Hindu temples. The town Vaikom is famous for a Hindu temple dedicated  to Shiva (here the God's  name is Mahadevan).
Vaikom Mahadevan temple, Kerala .thehindu.com
Considered to be a social reformation day by the Government of Kerala,  the struggle against caste discrimination was spear headed by great people like Narayana Guru  (born on August 28, 1855 in an  Ezhava peasant family, hailing from a village close to Thiruvananthapuram), T. K. Madhavan, a well-known  lawyer and  social reformer,  and journalist and revolutionary K. Kelappan (considered as Kerala Gandhi). Later nation wide temple entry movement became an offshoot of Vaikom protests and many reformers across India took inspiration from this protest in this same  town in Kerala.
As for K. Kelappan, no doubt, he  played a stellar role in the famous Vaikom Satyagraha and was the leader of the Guruvayur Satyagraha in 1932.  He undertook fast-unto death in the same temple town and the fasting continued till he became very weak. At last, Kelappan  gave it up upon  Gandhiji’s interference. The Vaikom  movement was centered at the Shiva temple in Vaikom, near Kottayamthe. Nambootheri Brahmins were the main residents  on the four nadas/ streets around the Shiva temple. They were the ones taking care of the temple pujas, rituals, etc. 
 Social reformer, Vaikom struggle Kellapan ravel.manoramaonline.com
T.K. Mahadevan laid the foundation of Vaikom struggle, kerala. indianetzone
 The streets around the temple of Mahadeva could not be accessed by Ezhava and other low caste communities.  Countless social reformers had been protesting against this blatant denial of entry to the so called  untouchables.  Earlier  highly respected sage like Sree Narayana Guru and his disciple Mahakavi Kumaran Asan were  denied entry into the roads. The disgusting fact was they were ill-treated by  a group of  upper caste men in drunken stupor casting aspersion on them in the name of  caste. This infuriated many people cutting across caste barriers. The protest to open the streets to every person became a serious issue in the town.

As a prelude to Stayagrahs at vaikom,  a group of Savarnas or upper castes, participated in  a padayatra procession to the palace in Thiruvananthapuram, and submitted a petition on the first of Oct. 1924 to the Regent Maharani Sethulakshmi Bai of Travancore with approximately 25000 signatures for allowing entry to the  roads to the  temple for everyone. They impressed on the Regent Ranee the need to respect the aspiration of low caste people and their basic  rights to  enter the streets and worship on the temple premises.  Gandhijii  came on the scene and personally met with the Regent Maharani.  In addition,  another procession of Savarnas tool place  headed by  well-known Nair leader Mannath Padmanabhan Nair,  with  about 500 in the initial stage and  increased in size to about  5000 when the procession had reached Thiruvananthapuram in the month of November 1924.Later their protests died down and they accepted the rulers' move.   The king after certain deliberations understood the ground reality and abolished the ban on the so-called 'low caste people' or avarnas from entering the roads close to the temples  as well as the temples in the Princely State of Travancore, now part of Kerala. It was on  23rd November, 1925, the temple  gates  except the East street of all places of Hindu worship were  opened to Hindus of  all castes In 1928, the backward castes got the right to walk on public roads leading to all temples in Travancore.

''Vaikom Sathyagraha'' was a great success  after a prolonged struggle which finally led to the temple entry proclamation act.  Congress leader E.V. Ramawami Naicker, (then Congress President of TN) as requested by Kerala Congress Party and his personal friend and Congress leader Rajaji,  participated in the protest in the second phase representing Tamil Nadu (Then part of Madras Presidency) as the main  satyagrahis courted arrest and sent  to jail. He took the leadership toward  the end and  was arrested twice and finally released  soon after the ruler of Travancore died. The  aim of Satyagraha was  to  securing freedom to all sections of society to pass through the public roads leading to the Sri Mahadeva Temple.  The streets were forbidden to the so called  low caste people for a pretty long time earlier.The famous Malayalam poet Muloor S.Padmanabha Panicker wrote:'
         Long ago on the streets of Vaikom in a rickshaw,
        The great sage Sree Narayana was going,
         An idiot born as god on earth'',
         Came up and ordered the rickshaw to withdraw.
https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Vaikom_Satyagraha