results for: Kerala History- Kerala Culture
the General Election of 1967, the United Leftist Front won 117
out of 133 seats and the Marxist leader E. M. S. Nambutiripad
(CPM) became Chief Minister. However, in October 1969, the
£. M. S. Ministry fell and the CPI leader C. Achuta
Menon was sworn in as Chief Minister on November 1, 196 But in
August 1970, the Menon Ministry resigned and Kerala was placed
once again under President's Rule--the General Election of September
1970, a Communist (CPI) Government with the support of Congress
Party and Kerala Congress Party assumed office, and Achuta Menon
continued as Chief Minister till 1977. After the April 1977
elections, the Congress Party, the leadership of A. K. Antony,
formed a new coalition government, which was soon followed by
the CPI Ministry of Nayanar. The Moslem League was also
able to have Muhammad Koya made Chief Minister for a few weeks
before Presidnet's Rule was again imposed on Kerala. After
the 1982 elections, a non-Communist coalition ministry has taken
over state administration with K. Karunakaran as Chief Minister.
century witnessed some most remarkable changes or revolutions
on the social scene of Kerala. This region which was the
most caste-ridden of all the regions of India is today the least
caste-ridden area. However, this volt-face did not happen
all of a sudden, by means of a bloody revolution, but gradually
by means of new laws under the impact of many cultural factors.
Since the arrival of Aryan Brahmis in Kerala in the eighth century,
the society was hierarchically restructured on the principles
of caste. The high castes enjoyed privileges and immunities:
the Brahmins, the Kshatriyas (the royal families of Kerala who
were Sudra Nairs were elevated to Kshatriya-status by the Brahmins
who in turn were richly rewarded by the ruling Kshatriya caste),
and the Nairs owned most of the land and oppressed the tenants
who were mostly Muslim Mappilas, Ezhavas, Pariahs, and Pulayas.
the Medieval Catholic Church and its clergy in Europe, the upper
castes exemption from paying taxes; the Brahmins enjoyed immunity
from death penalty--after all, the Brahmins made the laws and
applied them differently to different castes. The law was
extremely cruel toward castes; they were sub-ject to the death
penalty for offenses like theft and cow-slaughter; capital punishment
took the forms of being trampled to death under an elephant, being
blown from the mouth of a cannon, by hanging which lasted for
three days (Citravadham), and by mutilation. Slavery was
practiced with impunity even in the twentieth century at least
in the form of bonded labor.
land owners had the power to put their slaves to death.
Most tenants could not keep milch-cows, wear fine clothes, live
in tiled houses, use metal utensils, wear gold ornaments, and
travel in palanquins, trains, and automobiles. Violators
were punished by fines. There was marriage tax for the low
castes, probably to prevent them from increasing and multiplying.
Occupational classes had to service for the Brahmins often without
compensation; their looms, oil-mills, fishing-nets, and boats
were all taxed. The use of public highways was forbidden
to outcastes, and anyone daring to pass within polluting distance
of a Nair (unapproachability) would be cut down at once; Ezhavas
had to keep a distance of 32 feet from a Brahmin! Low castes
could not wear shoes and carry umbrellas in public even in heavy
rains. The proper salutation from a woman to persons of
rank was to uncover the bosom. The practice of pollution
(untouchability) was widespread even to the point that members
of the lower castes had not the right to walk along the approach
roads leading to temples.
British administration did not want to disturb the hierarchical
caste-system too fast and too radically. They gradually
abolished blatant forms of slavery. The Christian missionaries
were given the responsibility to bring about gradual social changes
by means of education and conversion of the low castes to the
Christian religion -" Christians were not subject to caste laws
even though they too were discriminated against. The Shanar
women of South Travancore who became Christians began covering
their upper bodies with blouse (kuppayam) and towel like
the upper-caste-women in the1850's; these women were persecuted
for their defiance of traditional caste law on dressing.
The Shanar agitation eventually led to the Royal Proclamation
of July 26, 1859, abolishing all restrictions on covering the
upper parts of the body by Shanar women.
education provided in missionary schools created a new sense of
equality and an awareness of the injustice of caste discrimination
not only among members of the lower castes but also among members
of the upper class. Even some Brahmins like Swami Agamananda (1896-1961)
of the Ramakrishna Advaita Ashram of Kaladi were champions of
the civil rights of lower castes. The great reformers were the
Nair, Chattampi Swamikal (1854-1924), and the saintly Ezhava,
Sri Narayana Guru (1854-1928). The former encouraged the
Nairs to resist Brahmin dictatorship in government, religion,
and society. The latter worked for reforms within the Ezhava
community. He, too, defied Brahmin authority and started
consecrating Ezhava temples and Ezhava priests all over Kerala.
He preached and practiced the ideal: "One caste, one religion,
-airi- one God". To organize the Ezhavas and to achieve social
reforms, Narayana Guru founded the organization: Sri Narayana
Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP) in 1903.
the reformers wanted an end to untouchabiiity by opening not only
the approach roads of temples to the avarna (low-caste) Hindus
but also the doors of the temple to the a yarn as or Harijans,
as Mahatma Gandhi called them. The Vaikom Satyagraha (1924-25)
and the Guruvayoor Satyagraha (1931-32) helped create a change
in public perception on untouchabiiity. As a result, on
November 12, 1936, the Maharaja of Travancore issued his famous
Temple Entry Proclamation which opened the doors of Hindu temples
to Hindus of all castes. Ten years later. Cochin and Malabar
also enacted their versions of laws on temple entry for Harijans.
Kerala Society has come a long way since the days of the Temple
Entry Proclamation of 1936. India became independent in
1947 and a United Kerala came into existence in 1956. With
industrial revolution, planned development, agrarian reforms,
labor movement, and democratic government, Brahmin supremacy has
come to an end and new economic and professional classes have
emerged. The traditional Kerala Society in which land property
owned by an individual determined a person's worth and wealth
has become a thing of the past. Its place has been taken
over by leadership in political parties and political connections.
Businessmen, lawyers, teachers, workers, doctors, engineers, aflrt"
government officials, and farmers all have become pawns at the
hands of the new power-brokers of Kerala Society: the party
politicians and government ministers. They are the new royalty,
the new aristocracy, the new Brahmins. Much has changed,
but much remains the same.