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Remembering Vaikom satyagraha, a 100 years later

Why is it in the news?

  • The Vaikom satyagraha, which commenced on March 30, 1924, in Vaikom, Kerala, marked the beginning of temple entry movements in India and highlighted the issues of untouchability and caste oppression.

More about the news

  • Lasting for over 600 days, it was the first instance of a non-violent agitation in the country aimed at social reform, coinciding with the nationalist movement led by Mahatma Gandhi.
  • The princely state of Travancore, where Vaikom is located, had a feudal and caste-ridden system, where lower castes were barred from entering temples and other “pure”
  • The agitation was initiated by Ezhava leader T K Madhavan, who advocated for temple entry and enlisted support from Mahatma Gandhi and the Indian National Congress (INC).
  • The satyagraha focused initially on opening the roads around the Vaikom temple to lower castes, leading to a series of protests, arrests, and demonstrations against caste-based discrimination.
  • The movement gained momentum with leaders like Periyar and C Rajagopalachari joining in, but faced opposition and violence from upper-caste Hindus.
  • After months of protests and negotiations, a compromise was reached in March 1925, allowing access to three out of four roads surrounding the temple, albeit with one road reserved for Brahmins.
  • Despite its shortcomings, the Vaikom satyagraha laid the groundwork for future social reforms, culminating in the historic Temple Entry Proclamation signed by the Maharaja of Travancore in November 1936, which abolished the age-old ban on entry into temples for marginalized castes.

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