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Friday, March 11, 2011

Magnanimous Nair leaders

Nairs formed the back bone of orthodoxy in Kerala. It is true that at a time (say roughly from 15th century to early 20 th century) they imbibed the value system of Brahmins and a section of them oppressed sections of working class who were from lower castes.

But enlightened sections of Nairs took the lead to reform social ills like caste based discrimination including untouchability. Nair reformers gave all support to backward community leaders when they demanded end of discrimination.

Ayyankali, the leader of Pulaya scheduled caste community was helped in his efforts by Nairs. It is also true that certain Nair feudal lords attacked him
Govinda Pillai the feudal lord of Venganoor in whose farms Ayyankali's parents worked helped him.
"Ayyan had a benevolent landlord in Govinda Pillai. The landlord cleared jungles to make fields with the help of Ayyan. Later he gifted a small plot to Ayyan. Land owned by a Pulayan created unease among the landed," notes pages (link

Another notable Nair who helped him was Sadananda Swamikal, who was a spiritual leader who worked ardently for giving the scheduled castes their rights.

Sree Narayana Guru was taught in his childhood days by Kummampaillil Raman Pillai Asan, a nair Guru. At the time when backward castes were kept at a distance by orthodox nairs, another Nair came forward boldly to teach them. Young Nanu (who later became Narayana Guru) learnt Sanskrit and traditional knowledge from there. Chattampi Swamikal, who was born in Nair Community had been his spiritual mentor. Interestingly among Narayana Guru's direct disciples Nairs were many. Guru liked Swamy Sathyavrathan the most among his disciples.

Once Guru said Sathyavrathan (who was formerly Ayyappan Pillai) had the least pride in caste among those whom I met.

Mannathu Padmanabhan, founder of Nair Service Society had always supported movements against caste oppression. He lead the Savarna Jatha to support the right of lower castes to enter the road beside Vaikom temple. He actively participated in Vaikom and Guruvayoor Satyagraha organised for asserting rights of lowers castes. K. Kelappan a true patriot and first president of Nair Service Society lead the Guruvayoor Satyagraha for the rights of backward castes.

While all caste organisations demand rights for themselves Nairs demanded economic reservation which will benefit economically lower class from all castes and religions.

Perhaps magnanimity of Nairs went to become suicidal. Irrespective of their contribution against religious and caste oppression Nairs were often portrayed as villans. While every other community in Keala received some sops from different governments, Nairs got none.

Nair politicians who won on community votes also did not ever support even legitimate demands of the community. Perhaps it is time nairs did a soul search. let them continue to work for others but remember the saying "Charity Begins at Home."