Published on: April 3, 2023
Why in news? Kerala Chief Minister Pinarayi Vijayan and Tamil Nadu Chief Minister MK Stalin inaugurated the centenary celebrations of the historic anti-untouchability movement at a ceremony in Vaikom
- On March 30, 1924, in the temple town of Vaikom in the princely state of Travancore, a non-violent agitation started, marking the beginning of “temple entry movements” across the country.
- Lower castes like the Ezhavas and Pulayas were considered polluting and various rules were in place to distance them from upper castes that included a prohibition, not just on temple entry, but even on walking on the roads surrounding temples.
About the Vaikom Satyagraha
- The campaign, led by Congress leaders K. Madhavan, K. Kelappan and K. P. Kesava Menon, was noted for the active support and participation offered by different communities and a variety of activists.
- The issue of temple entry was first raised by Ezhava leader TK Madhavan in a 1917 editorial in his paper Deshabhimani.
Phase of the struggle
- In the 1923 Kakinada session of the INC, a resolution was passed by the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee to take up anti-untouchability as a key issue.
- This was followed by a massive public messaging campaign and a movement to open Hindu temples and all public roads to avarnas.
- The Vaikom Satyagraha movement of 1924-25 started on March 30, 1924 with active support nationwide.
- The Akalis offered langar for the Satyagrahis and the Malayali diaspora living in Malaya and Singapore offered monetary support.
- The Savarnas, too, joined the struggle by organising savarnajathas [rallies] and boycotting temples.
- National leaders, radical thinkers and social reformers like Mahatma Gandhi, E V Ramasvami Naikar [Periyar] and Sri Narayana Guru came to Vaikom to support the Satyagraha.
- The Vaikom Satyagraha also triggered similar satyagrahas in Malabar and Kochi regions, in Guruvayur and Paliyam.
- In March 1925, Gandhi began his tour of Travancore and was able to iron out a compromise
- The agitation was given up and a compromise reached with Regent Sethu Lakshmi Bayi who released all those arrested and opened the north, south and west public roads leading to Vaikom Mahadeva Temple to all castes and , eastern road, was kept reserved for brahmins.
- This was finally implemented in November 1925, when the government completed diversionary roads that could be used by the low castes without polluting the temple.
- On November 23, 1925, the last satyagrahi was recalled from Vaikom.
- The Temple Entry Proclamation was issued by Maharaja Chithira Thirunal Balarama Varma on November 12, 1936.
- The Proclamation abolished the ban on the so-called ‘low caste people’ or avarnas from entering Hindu temples in the Princely State of Travancore, now part of Kerala, India.
- The proclamation was a milestone in the history of Travancore and Kerala.
- Temple Entry Proclamation Day is considered to be a social reformation day by the Government of Kerala.