20 Facts About Ayyankali


Ayyankali was an Indian politician, prominent social reformer, educator, economist, lawmaker, and revolutionary leader.


Ayyankali worked for the advancement of the oppressed people in the princely state of Travancore.


Ayyankali's struggle resulted in many changes that improved the socio-political structure of Kerala.


Ayyankali's determined and relentless efforts changed the lives of Dalits.


Ayyankali was born on 28 August 1863 in Venganoor, Thiruvananthapuram, Travancore.


Ayyankali was the first of eight children born to Ayyan and Mala, who were members of the Pulayar community.


The region in which Ayyankali lived, which now forms a part of the state of Kerala, was particularly affected by social divisions during his lifetime and was described as a "mad house" of castes.

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Ayyankali's popularity earned him the names of Urpillai and Moothapullai translated roughly as 'Leader of the Land' or 'Elder Leader'.


In 1893, Ayyankali, dressed in clothing traditionally associated with oppressor caste people, and defied the social conventions that applied to oppressed people by riding on a road in a bullock cart he had bought.


Later, in 1904, Ayyankali was inspired by the speech of the reformist Ayyavu Swamikal.


Ayyankali had been preaching the need to break caste divisions because he thought that doing so would limit the number of people who were converting from Hinduism to Christianity.


Ayyankali drew inspiration from the activities of Narayana Guru, a contemporary social reformer from the Ezhava caste, although the two men differed in their philosophy and the means of turning it into reality.


Ayyankali sought to improve access to education for the oppressed classes.


However, Ayyankali, who was illiterate, believed that education should be available to all children and this meant that government schools should allow access to untouchables.


In that year, helped by the experience gained from organizing the Brahma Nishta Mattam, Ayyankali founded the Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham which campaigned for access to schools and raised funds to set up Pulayar-operated schools in the interim.


An attempt by Ayyankali to enroll a Pulayar girl in a government school led to violent acts perpetrated by oppressor castes against the community and eventually to the burning down of the school building in the village of Ooruttambalam.


Ayyankali's response was an organized strike of agricultural labor, a first strike action by oppressed agricultural laborers of the region.


Ayyankali was central to the success of the Pulaya challenge against the traditional strictures that prohibited females of the community from covering their upper body in the public.


Ayyankali later became a member of the assembly of Travancore, known as the Sree Moolam Popular Assembly or Praja Sabha.


The anniversary of Ayyankali's birth has been celebrated by his descendants and by special interest groups.