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Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South IndiaThe 1924–25 Vykom Satyagraha and Mechanisms of Change$
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Mary Elizabeth King

Print publication date: 2015

Print ISBN-13: 9780199452668

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: March 2015

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780199452668.001.0001

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The Ezhava Community Awakens

The Ezhava Community Awakens

(p.33) 2 The Ezhava Community Awakens
Gandhian Nonviolent Struggle and Untouchability in South India

Mary Elizabeth King

Oxford University Press

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

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