Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker

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    In Context

    • The recently-released Malayalam film Pathonpatham Noottandu (‘Nineteenth Century’) is based on the life of Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker.

    Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker

    • About: 
      • 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.
      • He was given the title of ‘Panicker’ by the then-king of Travancore in 1869.
    • Social Reforms:
      • He challenged the domination of upper castes or ‘Savarnas’ and brought about changes in the lives of both men and women.
      • Some of his most significant contributions were in protesting for the rights of women belonging to Kerala’s backward communities. 
      • In 1858, he led the Achippudava Samaram strike at Kayamkulam in Alappuzha. 
        • This strike aimed to earn women belonging to oppressed groups the right to wear a lower garment that extended beyond the knees. 
        • In 1859, this was extended into the Ethappu Samaram, the struggle for the right to wear an upper body cloth by women belonging to backward castes.
      • In 1860, he led the Mukkuthi Samaram at Pandalam in the Pathanamthitta district, for the rights of lower-caste women to wear ‘mukkuthi’ or nose-ring, and other gold ornaments. 
      • These struggles played an important role in challenging the social order and in raising the dignity of women belonging to the lower strata of society in public life.
    • Apart from issues related to women, Panicker also led the first-ever strike by agricultural labourers in Kerala, the Karshaka Thozhilali Samaram, which was successful.
    • Other Contributions
      • He  is also credited with building two temples dedicated to the Hindu god Shiva, in which members of all castes and religions were allowed entry.
      • He also established the first Kathakali Yogam (area-based schools for the classical dance form Kathakali) for the Ezhava community in 1861, which led to a Kathakali performance by Ezhavas and other backward communities, another first for them.
      •  He was also a master of Kalaripayattu, the traditional martial arts practised in Kerala, which is also considered the oldest of its kind in India.
    • First martyr of the Kerala Renaissance
      • 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.
      • In 2005, the Kerala government inaugurated the Arattupuzha Velayudha Panicker Research Foundation and Cultural Centre in Thiruvananthapuram.

    Source: IE