Short Essay on the Social Reform Movement in South India in end of 19th century

At the end of the 19th century, Kerala presented a dismal picture of social and religious life, with individual being subjected to the tyranny of innumerable debased customs and manners. A silent revolution was set in motion by Sree Narayana Guru, the saint, born in an outcaste Ezhava family in Travancore, which had wider impact on the modern society in Kerala.

This revolution though started as a movement to remove the unnecessary customs and traditional evil practices prevalent among the Ezhavas, one of the untouch­able communities, which was numerically bigger than all the caste Hindus put together in Kerala, had produced results which evidently changed the face of the social, political, economic and religious life of Kerala as a whole.

The fact that this reform movement was confined to Kerala alone probably because of the geographical peculiarities of the country and local particularities of caste structure here made it almost an unnoticed historical event. Viewed from the impact of this occurrence on the society as a whole, it may be said that it had radically changed the life of larger number of Indians, than the Brahmo Samaj, Arya Samaj, Prarthana Samaj and other social reform organizations taken together could do. Brahmo Samaj, Prarthana Samaj and others were all upper caste social organizations which directed the reform from above the social pyramid.

In Kerala, the movement was a lower caste phenomenon which spread its influence from below to the higher orders. The significance of this movement can be better appreciated if it is juxtaposed with the movement initiated in Bengal.