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Remembering Vaikom Satyagraha: A motion that spearheaded social reforms in two States

Exactly a century in the past, Kerala’s Vaikom the town which was once then within the princely state of Travancore turned into the epicentre of a ancient non-violent motion towards untouchability and caste discrimination. Vaikom Satyagraha that lasted for 604 days (20 months) from March 30, 1924 to November 23, 1925 marked the daybreak of temple access actions throughout India.

Again then, the folks of the oppressed categories particularly the Ezhavas, have been prohibited from strolling at the 4 roads surrounding the Vaikom Mahadeva temple. Spearheaded by way of Congress chief T.Ok. Madhavan, who himself was once an Ezhava, an agitation was once introduced by contrast social injustice.

T. K. Madhavan. File

T. Ok. Madhavan. Document
| Picture Credit score:
The Hindu Archives

In 1923, Madhavan offered the problem as a solution on the Kakinada meet of All India Congress Committee. Therefore ,it was once taken up by way of the Congress Untouchability Committee shaped by way of the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee in January 1924.

Madhavan, Ok.P. Kesava Menon who was once the then secretary of Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee and Congress chief and educationist Ok. Kelappan (often referred to as Kerala Gandhi) are regarded as the pioneers of the Vaikom Satyagraha motion.

The start

Round 7.30 am on March 30, 1924, the Satyagrahis walked in procession against the forbidden public roads. They have been stopped 50 yards clear of where the place a board (first submit in 1905) cautioning the oppressed communities towards strolling at the roads, was once positioned.

Wearing khadi and dressed in khadi caps, 3 younger males specifically Govinda Panikkar, a Nair, Bahuleyan, an Ezhava and Kunjappu, a Pulaya, marched forward, defying the prohibitionary orders. The police who requested about their castes, stopped them after they replied. In protest, the 3 males sat on highway and have been arrested.

Then on, on a daily basis, 3 volunteers from 3 other communities have been despatched to stroll at the prohibited roads.Inside per week, the leaders of the motion have been all arrested.

Invitation to ‘Periyar’

George Joseph, a Congressman hailing from Kerala and an recommend who was once then training in Madurai, in brief led the agitation when the pioneers have been at the back of bars. He wrote to ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy who was once then the Tamil Nadu Pradesh Congress Committee president, soliciting for him to be on the helm of the marketing campaign. Mahatma Gandhi and C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji) equipped steering. Periyar reached Vaikom on April 13, 1924 after quickly turning in celebration tasks to Rajaji.

From the day of his arrival, Periyar was once at the leading edge of the combat until its conclusion. Mobilising volunteers and garnering public improve, he visited villages in and round Vaikom, Tiruvanthapuram and Nagercoil and delivered witty but fiery speeches. Owing to enthusiastic reaction, he was once banished from Kottayam and Kollam.

He was once sooner or later arrested in Would possibly 1924 and served one month of straightforward imprisonment. When Periyar returned to Vaikom after liberate, he was once arrested once more in July 1924 and was once sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for 4 months. He was once the one Satyagrahi to be sentenced to rigorous imprisonment, identified Pazha Athiyaman, a Tamil creator and biographer, in his ebook Vaikkom Porattam.

Whilst fellow Satyagrahis have been handled as political prisoners, Periyar was once denied that standing. He was once arrested once more in Erode as a ploy to stay him clear of Vaikom. He was once quickly referred to as as ‘Vaikom Veerar’ (hero of Vaikom), a time period first utilized by Thiru. Vi. Kalyanasundaram, a Tamil journalist, wrote Athiyaman.

With the exception of being the one chief from outdoor Kerala to be invited to the motion’s victory celebrations (in November 1925), Periyar was once even requested to preside over it, Athiyaman added.

Progressively, the temple government modified techniques by way of barricading the roads. In passive resistance, the Satyagrahis situated themselves outdoor the barricades and went on starvation moves that lasted for days. Because the agitation stepped forward, irate caste Hindus resorted to violence thru attacks and pouring of irritants into the eyes of the Satyagrahis.

Position of ladies

The participation of ladies, particularly the ones from the households of Satyagrahi leaders together with Periyar’s spouse Nagammai and sister Kannammal, empowered womenfolk to play an extraordinary function within the struggle. The Congressmen at Vaikom reached out to their brethren in Madras Presidency, who contributed cash and males.

The non-violent motion received common consideration, with the Akalis (Sikhs) from Punjab extending improve by way of opening a group kitchen (langar) for the volunteers. Alternatively, it was once quickly closed down following a directive from Mahatma Gandhi who sought after the agitation to be a “Hindu affair”.

A struggle amidst flood

In July 1924, Vaikom witnessed a deluge. In step with a file in The Hindu, the Satyagrahis, unmindful of the inclement climate, persevered their agitation. With the water stage on the japanese barricade having risen 3 to 4 toes, the volunteers waded their means in waist-deep water whilst the police stood guard in boats.

When Mulam Thirunal, the king of Travancore died in August 1924, the Satyagraha was once quickly suspended and resumed in a couple of days.

In a display of team spirit for the social reform, a big team of caste Hindus, in November 1924, marched from Travancore until the royal palace at Tiruvananthapuram, as urged by way of Gandhi. They passed over a memorandum with 25,000 signatures of caste Hindus to Queen Sethulakshmi Bai (Maharani Regent) of Travancore, tough to open the manner roads to Vaikom temple for all castes.

She handed it over to Sree Moolam Widespread Meeting the place the movement proposed in favour of unrestricted use of public roads across the Vaikom temple was once defeated by way of the narrowest margin of only one vote (21 votes towards 22) in February 1925.

Arrival of Gandhi

Gandhi, who arrived at Vaikom in March 1925, held a chain of discussions with leaders of quite a lot of caste teams and met Maharani Regent at her Varkala camp. Even supposing the Queen expressed her willingness to opening all of the roads, however, as the top of State, she stated she needed to heed to public opinion, discussed Pazha. Athiyaman.

Illustration on Vaikom Satyagraha

Representation on Vaikom Satyagraha
| Picture Credit score:
Satheesh Vellinezhi

On November 23, 1925, 3 roads (resulting in the Western, Southern and Northern entrances) aside from the only resulting in the Japanese front of Vaikom temple have been thrown open to all castes, after the prohibitionary orders have been withdrawn. The fourth highway reserved just for Brahmins remained out of bounds for Muslims and Christians too.

Every week later, the Vaikom Satyagraha was once formally withdrawn on November 30, 1925 after consultations between Gandhi and W.H. Pitt, the then police commissioner of Travancore. A compromise was once reached following the discharge of all prisoners and grant of get admission to to 3 of the 4 roads.

Temple Access Proclamation

In November 1936, nearly a decade after the realization of the Satyagraha, the ancient Temple Access Proclamation was once signed by way of the Maharaja of Travancore which got rid of the age-old ban at the access of marginalised castes into the temples of Travancore.

The Vaikom Satyagraha introduced open the rift between Gandhi and Periyar. Whilst Gandhi noticed it as Hindu reformist motion, Periyar referred to as it a struggle towards caste-based atrocities. Periyar was once no longer proud of the partial luck attained, and he sooner or later give up Congress months later. George Joseph too give up Congress owing to confrontation with Gandhi.


The Kerala executive, in July 2014, introduced the established order of Vaikom Satyagraha Memorial Museum and Mahatma Gandhi statue at Vaikom. Just about six years later, the museum was once inaugurated in January 2020.

The Vaikom Satyagraha Memorial Museum.

The Vaikom Satyagraha Memorial Museum.
| Picture Credit score:

In contrast to standard museums, the Vaikom Satyagraha Memorial Museum does no longer space ancient artefacts or shows. It incorporates documentation and archival fabrics at the non-violent motion. For example, a reproduction of probably the most signal forums that cautioned the oppressed communities towards using the temple highway has been positioned throughout the museum as a reminder of the deplorable and discriminatory socio-political local weather of the time.

Previous, a memorial of Periyar was once built in Vaikom 29 years in the past. The memorial positioned close to Valiyakavala Junction that include a life-size statue of the social reformer at the side of a library was once established in January 1994. It was once passed over to Tamil Nadu executive years later.

The museum in memory of E.V. Ramasamy (Thanthai Periya ), who was at the forefront of the Vaikom Satyagraha, earning him the epithet ‘Vaikom veerar’

The museum in reminiscence of E.V. Ramasamy (Thanthai Periya ), who was once at the leading edge of the Vaikom Satyagraha, incomes him the epithet ‘Vaikom veerar’
| Picture Credit score:

The memorial, now lies ignored and the Tamil Nadu executive is to renovate it at an estimated value of ₹8.14 lakh. It’s also taking steps to ascertain a brand new memorial at Arookutty village in Kerala the place Periyar was once first lodged following his arrest all over his participation within the social reform combat.

Vaikom Award by way of T.N. executive

Beginning this 12 months on September 17, on Periyar’s start anniversary, the Tamil Nadu executive could be presenting the Vaikom Award in reminiscence of Periyar, to outstanding change-makers who struggle for the welfare of the oppressed in States outdoor Tamil Nadu.

Because the 12 months 2024 marks the centenary of the Vaikom Satyagraha, Kerala Leader Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Tamil Nadu Leader Minister M.Ok. Stalin are to collectively inaugurate the centenary celebrations, all over a serve as to be held at Vaikom on April 1, 2023.

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