Leaders of Renaissance in Kerala -Ayyankali (1863–1941)

1. Ayyankali (1863–1941) was a leader of the lower caste Dalits known as the ‘Untouchables’.


2. He pioneered many reforms to improve the lives of the Dalits.


3. Ayyankali was born in 1863 in Venganoor, Trivandrum.


4. He was one of seven children born to Ayyan and Mala, members of Pulaya community. He was illiterate as were all Dalits at that time.


5. In those days Dalits were not allowed to walk along public roads. The Dalit women were not allowed to cover their breasts in public places.


6. Ayyankali organized Dalits and fought against these discriminations. He was at the forefront of movements against casteism.


7. He passed through the public roads of Venganoor (1893) on a bullock cart which was not allowed for the Dalits. Enraged by his boldness, the caste Hindus physically attacked him. Ayyankali led the movement and defeated them.


8. Ayyankali demanded right for Dalit children to study in school, which was not granted.


9. He started a school (1905) to teach Dalit children at Venganoor which was set ablaze by caste Hindus.


10. In response to this, in 1907 he led a strike of agricultural labourers at Venganoor which lasted for more than a year.


11. He called for a boycott of agricultural work raising certain demands. His demands included (a) stoppage of the practice of not giving tea in tea shops to Dalits who were given tea till then in coconut shells; (b) right to education for the Dalit children; (c) resting time for workers during work hours; and (d) replacement of the system of wages in kind by payment of cash.


12. Initially, the landlords did not take it seriously. They tried many means and methods to defeat the workers.


13. However, they realized that their families would starve to death if Ayyankali’s demands were not met with. They, therefore, were forced to concede the demands of Ayyankali and his supporters.


14. The significance of Ayyankali lies in the fact that he could spearhead a struggle for human rights of the untouchables raising demands which find expressions in various international human rights documents well before their adoption.


15. Ayyankali pioneered a movement for democratizing public places and asserting the rights of workers even before the formation of any workers organisation in Kerala. The most amazing part of it is that he did all this in spite of his illiteracy.


16. In 1907 Ayyankali established Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham in the lines of SNDP Yogam.


17. Many branches of the organisation were established in the length and breadth of Travancore and the members actively involved in the upliftment programmes of the downtrodden. Within three years land was bought at Venganur for the organisation.


18. Then they decided to fight to secure educational rights that had been granted to the members of Ezhava community.


19. Ayyankali was later nominated to the Sri Moolam Legislative Assembly, in 1910 by the then rulers in recognition of his leadership ability.


20. He was the first member of the Dalit community to become a member of Sri Moolam Legislative Assembly.

21. In 1912 Ayynkali met Sri Narayana Guru. In his efforts, Ayyankali also received the support of Narayana guru and other social reformers.


22. In 1912, Ayyankali led an agitation at the Nedumangad market for the protection of the rights of depressed classes.


23. In 1913 Ayyankali launched ‘Sadhujana Paripalini’ as the mouthpiece of Sadhujana Paripalana Sangham.


24. The first editor of the journal was Chempunthara Kalichothi Karuppan.


25. The year of ‘Oorutambalam Lahala’ was 1915. It is also known as ‘Thonnootonpathamand Lahala’ as it was staged in 1099 of Kollam Era.


26. It has occurred as a result of Ayyankali’s attempt to get admission for children at Oorutambalam school which was opposed by the upper castes.


27. The school was set ablaze at night of the same day. It paved way for revolt.


28. Ayyankali led Perinad strike at Kollam. As exhorted by him the Dalit women gave up their traditional stone ornaments.


29. By 1900 Dalits were given the freedom to walk on the public roads, and by 1914, Dalit children were allowed to join schools.


30. Also, Dalit women were allowed to cover their nakedness in public through his efforts.


31. In 1937 he was praised by Mahatma Gandhi in a meeting at Venganur, the hometown of Ayyankali when Gandhiji visited Travancore in connection with the Temple Entry Proclamation.


32. Ayyankali passed away on 18th June 1941.


33. In 1942, Samastha Thiruvithamkur Pulayar Mahasabha was established in a meeting held in Thiruvananthapuram which was presided over by T.T.Keshavan Shastri, the son in law of Ayyankali.


34. In November 1980, Indira Gandhi unveiled sculptor Ezra David’s commemorative statue of Ayyankali at Vellayambalam in Trivandrum.


35. The headquarters of the Scheduled Caste Development Department is named after Ayyan Kali.

Questions Related to Ayyankali

1. The founder of Sadhujana Paripalana Sangam?

2. The leader of “Kallumala samaram”?

3. Whom Mahatma Gandhi called “Pulaya Raja”?

4. The first belonged to depressed classes to be nominated to Travancore assembly.

5. Who led Perinad strike?

6. The leader of Kerala renaissance who was born at Venganur in Thiruvananthapuram in 1863.

7. Who led the first organized strike of agricultural labours in Travancore?

8. The leader of renaissance related to the controversial “Villuvandi Yatra” in Travancore history.

9. Whose statue is erected at Vellayambalam junction in Thiruvananthapuram?

10. Who established a “Kudippallikkoodam” for the depressed classes at Venganur in 1905?