The Ezhava Community Awakens

Mary Elizabeth King

in Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India

Published in print January 2015 | ISBN: 9780199452668
Published online March 2015 | e-ISBN: 9780199085279 | DOI:
The Ezhava Community Awakens

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An 1896 petition to the maharaja was signed by 13,176 Ezhavas, condemning their exclusion from government jobs. Efforts to overcome disabilities acquired at birth from the caste system were being promoted through socio-religious reform and nonviolent methods, such as petitioning. The Ezhavas emerged as the most educated and organized untouchable community in Travancore (and also of India), partly due to the government’s absorption of costs of primary education for “backward communities.” An Ezhava reformer, Sri Narayana Guru, in 1903 developed a socio-religious caste association, the Sri Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP Yogam), to spearhead social change. By 1919, Ezhavas sought tax resistance and noncooperation. A struggle for access to temple roads congealed, led by an Ezhava named T. K. Madhavan, who was enthralled by Gandhi and his strategies. The Indian National Congress, in December 1920, called for the lifting of untouchability among Hindus and formally adopted Gandhi’s program of noncooperation.

Keywords: socio-religious reform; nonviolent methods; Ezhavas; Narayana Guru; SNDP Yogam; T. K. Madhavan; Gandhi; Indian National Congress; noncooperation

Chapter.  20609 words.  Illustrated.

Subjects: Asian History

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