Ayyankali: A Detailed Study for PSC

Leaders of Kerala Renaissance:

Ayyankali

Ayyankali (1863-1941)

Ayyankali was one of the early social reformers of the Kerala Renaissance Movement. In those times, the members of the Pulaya community were considered untouchables, and being born into the Pulaya Community and Ayyankali too had to suffer from numerous social inequalities at an early age.

This made him all the more determined to break down the vicious cycle of caste discrimination and extreme poverty of the backward classes.

His untiring efforts to help the backward classes made a remarkable change in bringing down the walls of caste discrimination and untouchability practiced by the upper-class brahmins in Kerala.

Basic Facts

  • Birth 28 August 1863 (ചിങ്ങം 14, 1039), Venganoor (Kottukal Village, Neyyatinkara Taluk).
    Thiruvananthapuram.
  • Family Peringattuvilla, Plavathara Veedu.
    • Parents – Ayyan & Maala (പെരുങ്കാട്ടുവിള അയ്യൻ & മാല).
    • Wife – K. Chellamma (കെ. ചെല്ലമ്മ, 1888).
  • Childhood NameKali.
  • Epithets
    • Kerala Spartacus,
    • Urupillai & Moothapullai,
    • Flamed fire (ആളിക്കത്തിയ തീപ്പൊരി)
    • Father of Modern Dalit (ആധുനിക ദളിതരുടെ പിതാവ്)
    • Great Son of India (ഇന്ത്യയുടെ മഹാനായ പുത്രൻ) – by Indira Gandhi,
    • Pulaya Raja (പുലയരാജ) & Untiring Warrior– by Gandhiji,
    • നിരക്ഷരനായ സാമൂഹിക പരിഷ്കർത്താവ്,
    • അധഃസ്ഥിതരുടെ പടത്തലവൻ,
    • Master (യജമാനൻ),
    • "The most important Dalit leader of modern Kerala" – Historian P. Sanal Mohan
    • Mahatma.
    • "First Communist in India" (ഇന്ത്യയിലെ ആദ്യ കമ്യൂണിസ്റ്റുകാരൻ) – E.K. Nayanar.
  • FounderSadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham (1907), Pulaya Sabha (1938).
  • Revolts
    • Villuvandi Samaram (1893),
    •  Aralumoodu Lahala (1898),
    • Chaliyor Riots (1898),
    • Nedumangad Chantha revolt (1912),
    • Kallumala agitation/Perinadu Lahala (1915),
    • Ooruttambalam Lahala / Pulaya Lahala / Thonnooramandu Samaram (1915).
  • Famous words
    • "I am installing Pulaya Sivan" ("ഞാനിതാ പുലയ ശിവനെ പ്രതിഷ്ഠിക്കുന്നു"),
    • "If you don't allow our children to study, weeds will grow in your fields" (ഞങ്ങളുടെ കുഞ്ഞുങ്ങളെ പഠിക്കാനനുവദിച്ചില്ലെങ്കില്‍ നിങ്ങളുടെ വയലുകളില്‍ ഞങ്ങള്‍ പണിക്കിറങ്ങില്ല; നെല്ലിനുപകരം അവിടെ പുല്ലും കളയും വളരും),
    • "വിദ്യയിലൂടെ ഔന്നിത്യം നേടുക."
  • Death18 June 1941.

Revolts By Ayyankali

Ayyankali unleashed his first wave of rebellion by gathering like-minded people of his community and began to question the age-old customs through folk dance and music laced with the dissent of the downtrodden.

As a result, people began to address Ayyankali as Urpillai and Moothapullai.

Villuvandi Samaram (1893)

In early times, the lower-class was denied the freedom of travel and access to the public road. Only the upper-class landlords were authorized to access the public roads and travel using Villuvandi and they traveled in grandeur with specially clad clothes.

The lower classmen had to remove themselves from this path especially the Pulaya community and had to maintain a distance of at least 64 steps from the Nair community and 128 steps from Namboodiris. The 30-year-old Ayyankali decided to fight against this injustice.

Villuvandi Samaram (1893)

In an act of defiance, he bought a bullock cart, dressed like an upper-caste Nair with a dhoti wrapped angavasthram around his shoulders and put a turban on his head and he went on the public road.
  • Villuvandi Samaram was conducted from Venganoor to Kowdiar Palace.
This journey was blocked by the furious upper castes. Ayyankali pulled out his knife and challenged the upper class. No one dared to oppose Ayyankali and he continued his journey. He was accompanied by enthusiastic supporters.

After this incident, members of his own community began to respectfully call him Ayyankali as "Ayya/Master."

Chaliyar riots & Aralumoodu Lahala

After Villuvandi Samaram, Ayyankali led a rally to assert the rights of the lower caste at Balaramapuram. The upper caste attacked them and a fight broke out. Similar incidents happened throughout Travancore after the Villuvandi Samaram.

During these ongoing riots, the revolt in which the Dalit community used weapons for the first time is referred to as the Aralumoodu Lahala (ആറാലുംമൂട് ലഹള) of 1898.

Leading scholar Anand Teltumbde, author of the book 'Dalits: Past, present, and future' describes this walk of Ayyankali as the ‘walk for freedom’ and the consequent riots as ‘Chaliyar riots’.

Hundreds of Dalits were injured and for the first time, they realized they can fight the caste system through their protests. Inspired by the Chaliyar Riots, similar protests were organized in Manakkadu, Kazhakkoottam, Kaniyapuram, etc in the vicinity of the capital.

Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangam (SJPS)

  • Founded – 1907*
  • Renamed as Pulaya Mahasabha in – 1938.
  • Modeled after SNDP.
  • Journal – Sadhujana Paripalini (സാധുജന പരിപാലിനി).
    • Published from – Sudarsana Press, Changanacherry.
    • First Dalit Newspaper in India.
    • First Editor – Chempamthara Kalichothi Karuppan (ചെമ്പം തറ കാളിച്ചോതികറുപ്പൻ).
  • Other Important Leaders – Gopaladasan, Kurumban Daivathan, Thiruvarpadu Kuttan, Vellikkara Chothi & Visakhan Thevan.
  • Demands of SJPS
    • Reduce the number of working hours from 7 days a week to 6 days a week. They demanded for one day rest.
    • All the depressed class members should attend the weekly meeting of SJPS.
    • Male and Female members should 1/4 Chakram as membership fees.
  • In 1942, SJPS merged with Samastha Thiruvithamkoor Pulayar Mahasabha.

Kallumala Agitation/Perinadu Lahala (1915)

The Kallumalai Struggle is primarily a struggle for women, especially underprivileged ones against the abuse they had to suffer at the hands of the upper-class. 

In the Kerala of ancient times, the untouchable women were not allowed to cover the upper part of their body and had to wear heavy objects such as stones (granite), broken glasses pieces, or heavy beads as jewelry to symbolize their slavery and caste bondage.

On 24 October 1915 at Chomakkadu Cherumukku
(ചൊമക്കാട്ട് ചെറുമുക്ക്), near Perinad (Kollam) a meeting was organized by SJPS. The speaker at the meeting was Gopaladas, a leader of the Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangam and a colleague of Ayyankali.

As the representative of Ayyankali, he asked the women of the Pulaya community to throw away their Kallumalas. This caused an uproar among the orthodox upper-class society and in this meeting itself the members of SJPS were attacked.

Ayyankali StampThis event marked the beginning of the Kallumala Agitation/Perinadu Lahala and that of the Pulaya Lahala. 

In order to put an end to the resultant agitation caused by the meeting on 24th October, on 10th December 1915, Ayyankali organized an All Communities Conference in connection with the Perinad Lahala which was presided by Changanasseri Parameswaran Pillai

Ayyankali again convened another meeting on 21 December 1915 at Plavilapurayidom, Cherumoodu where Ayyankali encouraged the hundreds of women of the Pulaya community gathered there to defy the cultural norms by throwing away their Kallumala and by wearing blouses. These women did so and proclaimed that they will now start wearing blouses and use gold or metal ornaments. 

This incident came to be known as the "Kallumala Agitation."

This infuriated upper castes and riots broke out at various parts of Kerala. 
Ayyankali was asked to intervene and he arrived in Perinad after 7 days of the riot. 

The Diwan of Travancore, at that time, C. Rajagopalachari also arrived at Perinad to access the situation.  

Ayyankali agreed to withdraw from the riots (in a written agreement) on the conditions that the police would be withdrawn and the list of accused will be handed over to be traced and to stand for trial (including Gopaldas).

But the accused  Dalit men couldn't afford the legal fees. So upon the request of T.M. Varghese, a congress leader, E.J. John aka John Vakeel agreed to represent them.

As a result, John Vakeel won the case as the court's verdict was in favor of the Dalits and all the accused were acquitted and some of the upper class men were punished.

In lieu of this, to show their gratitude the pulaya community built a pond for Elenjikal John Vakeel which later came to known as 'Kamman Kulam.'

Famous Meetings

  • 1912 – Met Sree Narayana Guru at Balaramapuram.
  • 1937 – Met Mahatma Gandhi at Venganoor on January 14.
    •  'തന്റെ സമുദായത്തില്‍പെട്ട പത്ത് ബിഎക്കാരെ കണ്ടിട്ടുവേണം മരിയ്ക്കാന്‍ ' – Ayyankali's words to Gandhiji.

Educational Reforms & Revolts

For centuries, the lower caste people were banned from accessing proper education. As a result, Ayyankali himself was illiterate but he soon realized the role of education in one's life. So he started many revolts for gaining access to education for lower caste children.
  • Ayyankali started ''Kudi Pallikoodam" in 1905 at Venganoor.
After much effort, he was able to upgrade his Kudi Pallikoodam to a school but was met with many difficulties.

But his efforts came to fruition when on March 1, 1910, the Travancore government decreed that children from the Pulaya community could be admitted to all schools that Ezhava children have access to.
  • Travancore king who give permission for lower caste children to study at Govt schools – Sree Moolam Thirunal (1914).

Ooruttambalam Lahala / Pulaya Lahala / Thonnooramandu Samaram (1915)

In the village of Ooruttambalam, Ayyankali attempted to enroll a Pulaya girl named "Panchami" in a government school. The upper-class local authorities were against it and Ayyankali had to take forceful measures to admit the girl.

But eventually, due to the violent acts initiated by the upper class, the girl was outed and the school building was burnt down. It triggered a series of revolts starting with the Kandala revolt.

  • First organized agricultural strike in Kerala (Travancore)  as well as in India (1904 -1905).
As a result, Ayyankali organized the first agricultural strike in the region with the slogan "If there is no lesson, there will be no field" (പാഠമില്ലെങ്കില്‍ പാടത്തേക്കില്ല) and the farmers from the backward classes withdrew from the fields of Kandala, Kaniyapuram, Pallichal, Mudavooppara, and Vizinjom that were owned by the upper castes until the government agreed to the demands of SJPS for freedom and access to education.

This led to many violent encounters between the farmers and landlords' men and finally the upper-class landlords had to give in and made peace the farmers with the promise of the right to education, rise in wages and travel and public road access rights.

These series of violent protestations of the 1900s are termed as Ooruttambalam Lahala / Pulaya Lahala / Thonnooramandu Samaram.

A memorial, named ‘Kandala Lahala Sathabdi Smarakam’ was later erected in the school premises to commemorate this historic event.

Other efforts by Ayyankali on the education front are as follows:
  • 1916 – Theeyankara Pulaya School.
  • 1919 – Shankhumukham School for Christian converts.
  • 1936 –Venganoor Puduval School.
  • Ayyankali started a hostel at Vellayambalam for the students from backward classes.
    • Former President K.R. Narayanan was a resident of this hostel during his teens.

Sree Moolam Praja Sabha (SMPA)

For addressing the grievances and demands of the people from Pulaya community Sree Moolam Thirunal appointed P.K. Govinda Pillai, the editor of the Newspaper Subhashini as the representative of SJPS in the Sreemoolam Praja Sabha in 1911.

But upon the request of Govinda Pillai for a representative from Pulaya the community itself in the Praja Sabha, Ayyankali was nominated as a representative to the Sree Moolam Prajasabha on December 5, 1911.
  • First Harijan member nominated to Sreemoolam Praja Sabha.
  • 1911 – Ayyankali become a member of Sreemoolam Praja Sabha.
  • 1912 – Delivered First speech in SMPA on 7th February.
  • Ayyankali served 28 years as a member of Sreemoolam Praja sabha.

Works on Ayyankali

  • "Ayyankali: Adhasthidharude Padathalavan" (Biography) – T. H. P. Chentharassery (Malayalam, 1979).
  • "Ayyankali A Dalit Leader Of Organic Protest" – M. Nisar & Meena Kandasamy.
  • "പാഠമില്ലെങ്കില്‍ പാടത്തേക്കില്ല" – സ്മിത നരവട്ടത്ത്.
  • "Mahatma Ayyankali" (Film) – Sooriya Deva (Director, 2013).

Institutes, Schemes, Statues & Memorials

    Ayyankali Statue
  • Ayyankali Memorial – Panjajanyam, Chitrakoodam (Venganoor).
  • Statue of Ayyankali – Kowdiar square (Vellayambalam, Trivandrum,1980).
    • Architect – Ezra David.
    • Unveiled by – Indira Gandhi.
  • Central University of Kerala, Kasargod – sets up a chair in the name of Ayyankali.
  • Headquarters of SC\ST Development Corporation – Ayyankali Bhavan (Thrissur).
  • Ayyankali Urban Employment Guarantee Scheme (AUEGS)
    • Launched in – 2010.
    • Implemented by – Directorate of Urban Affairs, Government of Kerala.
    • Aim – to enhance the livelihood security of people in urban areas by guaranteeing 100 days of wage employment in a financial year to an urban household whose adult members volunteer to do unskilled manual work.
  • 150th Jayanti – 2013.
  • Victoria Jubilee Town Hall (VJT Hall) renamed as Ayyankali Hall.

Don't Forget to Check Out Our Post – Previous Year Repeated PSC Questions on "Ayyankali"


📝SideNotes:

  • Ayyankali of Kochi – Kolote P. Vallon.
  • Ayyankali Jayanthi – August 28 (Regional Holiday).
  • First Agricultural Magazine in Kerala – Krishikkaran (1909).
    • Second Agricultural Magazine in Kerala – Kerala Karshakan (1955).
  • Government of India had issued a postage stamp of Ayyankali on – 12 August 2002.
  • Indian Prime Minister who participated in the 152nd birthday celebrations of Ayyankali – Narendra Modi (2015).
  • Founder of Samastha Thiruvithamkoor Pulayar Mahasabha – T.T. Kesavan Shastri.
* The year in which SJPS was formed is unclear. Some sources say it was in 1904 while others say it was in 1907. So in this post, we list it as 1907 which is provided as the answer for almost all the previous questions by PSC.

Thanks for reading!!!

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