Leader of socially downtrodden
Ayyankali was one of the foremost leaders of the socially downtrodden community who fought for their rights. He undertook many reforms to end the injustice that this community was facing in the society then.
Ayyankali was born at Venganoor, the present day part of Trivandrum, Kerala in 1863. He was born in a family called Cheramar.
Discrimination against the socially downtrodden
At that time, the socially downtrodden were forbidden from walking freely on roads. They were not allowed to take part in normal activities of life as society considered them untouchable.
Fighting against untouchability
Ayyankali began his revolt against the evil of untouchability by bringing together the socially downtrodden to fight against these discriminatory practices in the society.
Ayyankali soon met his Guru Ayyavu Swami who was against the caste system. Ayyankali was inspired by his Guru to further spearhead his movement against social discriminations.
Fighting for Education
Fighting for the cause of education for the neglected socially downtrodden children who were not allowed to study in school, Ayyankali started a school at Venganoor for socially downtrodden children.
Raising demands for equal rights
Stepping up his voice for equal rights for the socially downtrodden, Ayyankali called for the boycott of agriculture and farming by the socially downtrodden until certain demand were met. These demands were:
- Right to Education for socially downtrodden children
- Allowing socially downtrodden to have tea in tea stalls
- Resting hours for labourers during their work
- Abolishing the in-kind wage system and bringing in cash system.
Inspite of being illiterate
It is noteworthy that Ayyankali carried out all these activities inspite of being an illiterate. It was his impeccable organizing skills that made this possible.
Support from Narayana Guru
As his efforts for bringing the socially downtrodden on an equal platform gathered steam, he received support from many prominent leaders. One of them who assisted Ayyankali in his endeavours on social reforms was Sri Narayana Guru.
Efforts bearing fruits
Ayyankali’s efforts soon began to fructify. In the year 1900, socially downtrodden were allowed to travel freely on public places. In 1914, the educational restriction on the socially downtrodden children was lifted and they were allowed to join schools. The many social restriction on socially downtrodden women also disappeared as people began to accept the socially downtrodden into mainstream society.
Starting Sadhujana Paripalana Sangam
In 1907, Ayyankali started a new association called Sadhujana Paripalana Sangam for the cause of human rights and social justice. Many projects were undertaken by this association for economic and educational growth of the socially downtrodden.
Nominated to Assembly
Ayyankali was nominated to the Travancore assembly in the year 1910.
As a leader known for his great leadership qualities, Ayyankali continued to play a major role in the development of the socially downtrodden in the next three decades of his life.
Ayyankali passed away on June 18th, 1941.
After life Impact
Ayyankali had a great impact on various sections of the society even after his life time. In Kerala, he is considered on the same league as Sri Narayana Guru.
The government of India has released a stamp in his name.
Legacy still stands tall
In 1980, the then prime minister Indira Gandhi unveiled a statue of Ayyankali in Trivandrum.
Statue of Ayyankali, Trivandrum Indira Gandhi
Just as his statue, the legacy of Ayyankali continues to stand tall among various sects of the society, especially the socially downtrodden community.