In News: Recently-released Malayalam film Pathonpatham Noottandu (‘Nineteenth Century’) is based on the life of Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker and on the stories of Nangeli and Kayamkulam Kochunni – associated with social reform in 19th-century Kerala which led to the large-scale subversion of the existing caste hierarchy and social order in the state.
About Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker:
- He was a social reformer from the Ezhava community in Kerala who lived in the 19th century.
- He was born into a well-off family of merchants in Kerala’s Alappuzha district.
- One of the most influential figures in the reformation movement in the state, he challenged the domination of upper castes or ‘Savarnas’ and brought about changes in the lives of both men and women.
Contribution of Panicker:
- Built two temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva in villages of Kerela in 1852-54, in which members of all castes and religions were allowed entry.
- Protested for the rights of women belonging to Kerala’s backward communities.
|1858||Achippudava Samaram strike||to earn women belonging to oppressed groups the right to wear a lower garment that extended beyond the knees|
|1859||Ethappu Samaram||the struggle for the right to wear an upper body cloth by women belonging to backward castes|
|1860||Mukkuthi Samaram||rights of lower-caste women to wear ‘mukkuthi’ or nose-ring, and other gold ornaments that helped in challenging the social order and in raising the dignity of women belonging to the lower strata of society in public life|
|Karshaka Thozhilali Samaram||first-ever strike by agricultural labourers in Kerala – successful|
|1861||Kathakali Yogam||First area-based schools for the classical dance form Kathakali for the Ezhava community|
- Panicker was a master of Kalaripayattu, the traditional martial arts practised in Kerala, which is also considered the oldest of its kind in India.
Post Death Recognition:
- Panicker was murdered by a group of upper-caste men in 1874 at the age of 49. This makes him the ‘first martyr’ of the Kerala renaissance.
- He was given the title of ‘Panicker’ by the then-king of Travancore in 1869.
- In 2005, the Kerala government inaugurated the Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker Research Foundation and Cultural Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.
- Nangeli, an Ezhava woman who lived in the 19th century in Alappuzha cut off her breasts to protest the ‘breast tax’ imposed by the Kingdom of Travancore on women belonging to lower castes. As per the breast tax – women from lower castes were not allowed to cover their breasts and were taxed heavily if they did so.
- Kayamkulam Kochunni, a Robin Hood-like figure in 19th century Alappuzha, has a shrine dedicated to him and a small museum as well.
Source: Indian Express