In the 19th century, in Kerala, there were many religious superstitions, rituals, and conventions. There were also social injustices and economic injustices. The Feudal lords suppressed the farmers.
The Upper Castes ill-treated the lower castes. This made the life of poor people miserable. There were so many illogical and even foolish practices related to menstruation, marriage, pregnancy, and death. Slavery also existed here.
- The Kerala Brahmins received a lot of privileges.
- The lower caste people did not have a good position in society. The Upper Caste people controlled their modes of dress, freedom to travel and entry into temples.
- There were untouchability and pollution rules. In Travancore and Kochi, government jobs were not given to people of lower classes.
It is in this social background that the Social Reformers started their fight against the ills of society. Although all-India Movements like Arya Samajam and Theosophical Society had their branches in Kerala, their influence was very little here. Here the social revolution was the result of local Movements. Here are some Social Reformists that worked in Kerala in the 19th and 20th centuries.
He was born in 1808, in the . village called Sastamkotta Vila near Kanya kumari. He started Samatwa Samajam’.
‘AkilattirattuAmmanai’and ‘Arul Nool’.
- For the first time, he started ‘Kannadi Prathishta’ in South India.
- His faith was called the way of the father (“Ayyavazhi”).
- He objected to all kinds of discrimination and stood for social equality.
- He objected to priesthood, idol worship, and animal sacrifice. He worked for the freedom of the lower castes and the welfare of women.
Sri Narayana Guru:
Hewas born in the village of Chempazhanthi in Thiruvananthapuram district, in 1854. He founded the Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam.
“Atmopadesa Sathakam”, “Daiva Sathakam”. “Darsanamala”, “ Siva Sathakam” and “Navamanjari”.
Worked for the ending of superstitions and caste discriminations. He encouraged people to take up Western education, trade, and business enterprises.
He made the famous slogan “One Jati, One Religion, One God, for Man”.
He raised his voice against the control by Upper Castes. Shocking the conservatives, he did ‘Siva Pratishta’ and Aruvipuram.
He was born in 1853 at the village of Kollur in Trivandum district. He published ‘Prachina Malayalam’, ‘Adibhasha’ and ‘Vedadikara Nirupanam’.
- He objected Jati and other illogical social rituals.
- He challenged the monopoly of Brahmins to study Vedas.
- Objected to the animal sacrifices in temples.
- He contributed a lot to Malayalam Literature and language.
He was bdrn in 1863 at Venganur in Trivandum. His Organization was Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham. ‘
- He fought for freedom to travel and education for the lower classes.
- He opposed the Jati System. He organized labour protests and agriculture boycotts to get lower-class students admission in public schools.
- Against the restrictions placed on the mode of dress by lower-class people, he organized the ‘Kallumala Protest’. He asked people to break and throw away the. Kallumala’.
Vakkom Abulkhader Moulavi:
He was born in 1873, at Vakkom in Chirayinkeezhu taluk. He made the Travancore Muslim Mahajana Sabha.
Swadesabhimani (edited by K. Ramakrishna Pillai), Al-Islam (An ArabicMalayalam Magazine).
- He is the architect of the modernization of Kerala Muslims. He asked the Muslims to give up all anti Islamic rituals.
- He asked the Muslims to get a Western education and to take part in Movements for development.
- He was the founder and owner of Swadesh abhimani Newspaper.
Hewas born at Patyam in 1885. He founded ‘Atmavidya Sangham’. He published Abhinava Keralam (Magazine), Atmavidya Kahalam (Journal), Sivayogavilasam (Magazine).
- Acknowledged the right of the lower classes to enter temples.
- Showed interest in the economic progress of the lower classes,
- He took active interest in Agricultural Movements.
- He opposed Jati and idol worship. He encouraged Yuktichintha and critical thinking. He was interested in prohibition (of alcohol).
Mar Kuriakose Elias Chavara :
He was born in 1805, in the village Kainakari in Kuttanad.
‘Atmanuthapam’, “Idayariatakangal’, ‘Dhyanasallapangal’ and ‘Nalagamangal’.
- He founded many schools in Central Kerala. He encouraged Sanskrit education. He opened a Sanskrit school at Mannanam, in 1846.
- The founded orphanages for the poor and old people.
- He encouraged the education of dalits. He funded two schools for them.
- He started St. Joseph’s Printing press at Mannanam. It was the first indigenous printing press in Kerala.
He was born in 1896 at Mezhathur. He published: “Adukkalayil Ninnum Arangathekku” and “Kannirum Kinavum”.
- He fought against the discrimination against the Namboodiri women and widows who had to suffer a lot because of insults and ostracism.
- He opposed dowry and the marrying of young girls to old men.