My late grandfather was a voracious reader, and has left us a home library where I love spending time whenever I can. His passion for books was not restricted to his profession of Advocacy, but spanned literatures and languages from all around the world. Browsing through his materials, I came across a precious old copy of one of the earliest magazines written in Malayalam, ‘Unninamboothiri’. The issue grabbed my interest when I saw that it featured a speech of my Great Grandfather, Shri. Kuttan Namboothiripad, delivered at a Yogakshemasabha anniversary meeting.
I think that it would be an interesting read in the present times. The problems that we face today are similar to the ones that existed a hundred years ago. So I felt that more people should read about it.
For readers who may not be familiar with Kerala’s history and socio-cultural events, here is a brief background.
India of the early 1900s was a rigidly compartmentalized nation based on caste systems and its consequent bias. Along with colonialism and the struggles to overthrow the foreign oppressive rule, many free-thinking liberals tried to rid the country of the plague of religious stigmas like untouchability and sati. Down South in Kerala, Yogakshemasabha was founded by Hindu Malayalee Brahmins in the early 1900s. The founders of the organization were a group of forward-thinking young men who gained modern education and yearned for a change in the socio-cultural atmosphere of the times. My great grandfather being a social activist and the editor of ‘Unninamboothiri’, strived along with his like-minded friends to vanquish the evils of the rigorous caste system. He also wished to bring about a significant reformation amongst the people of his own caste, at a time when the life of an average Namboothiri revolved around temples, priesthood, and secluded cultural and social stigmas carried over through generations.
The subject I want to talk to you about, first and foremost, is our religious reforms. For the past 25 or so years, we have been clamouring for a societal reformation; and yet in spite of celebrating over 20 Yogakshemasabha anniversaries, I claim that we still haven’t identified our biggest failure. My claim, although slightly audacious, is nevertheless true. Neither the Yogakshemasabha’s goals, nor its bylaws have dared touch this subject. No one has ever spoken openly about it either.
Hindus believe themselves to be more religiously inclined and the most enlightened religious practitioners. Especially our conservative societies who intertwine materialism with religious preaching and untouchability have created such a pitiful plight where no one is able to freely opine or act about anything. Many other castes’ religious frenzy, like themselves, might be affecting and wreaking havoc in other’s lives. We, not having so much strength, are unnecessarily, unjustly, deteriorating under the hundreds of religious eccentricities that we nourish, such as superstitions and evil customs.
Please do not be astonished when I use the word ‘religious frenzy’. If it isn’t a frenzy giving prominence to stigmas, then what is it that refuses human beings from considering each other as brothers and tries to segregate them in silos of separatism?
(part 2 to follow)