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Vaikom Satyagraha

Context: The Tamil Nadu government is planning to hold year-long events to commemorate the Vaikom Satyagraha.

The Vaikom Satyagraha

  • Vaikom Satyagraha was a historic non-violent movement against untouchability and caste discrimination in the country.
  • The Satyagraha took place between March 30, 1924 and November 23, 1925 and also marked the start of temple entry movements across India.
  • The movement was spearheaded by Congress leader T.K. Madhavan, as an opposition against social injustice.
  • Apart from Madhavan, K.P. Kesava Menon (then secretary of Kerala Congress) and Congress leader and educationist K. Kelappan are considered the pioneers of the Vaikom Satyagraha movement.

Background: Situation Prior to Vaikom Satyagraha

  • The Kingdom of Travancore had rigid and oppressive caste system. Vaikom town, located in present-day Kerala, was part of the princely state of Travancore.
  • The people belonging to the oppressed classes, especially the Ezhavas, had no right to walk on the four roads surrounding the Vaikom Mahadeva temple.
  • The injustice meted out to the depressed classes was brought to the notice as a resolution at the Kakinada meet of All India Congress Committee.
  • The Congress Untouchability Committee formed by the Kerala Pradesh Congress Committee in January 1924, decided to take up this issue.
    • K Kelappan (Kerala Gandhi), T K Madhavan, Velayudha Menon, K Neelakantan Namboothiri and TR Krishnaswami Iyer were members of the committee.
  • The committee decided to launch a ‘Kerala Paryatanam’ to urge temple entry and also advocate the opening of all public roads for everyone regardless of caste or creed.

Course of the Movement

  • The Congress Untouchability Committee decided to start the movement at the Mahadeva temple in Vaikom, because of the temple board’s extremely stringent rules regarding entry.
  • On March 30, 1924, the Satyagrahis walked towards the forbidden public roads in Vaikom. They were stopped by the police.
    • After getting to know their castes, the police stopped them. In protest, the satyagrahis sat on road and were arrested.
  • From then on, volunteers from three different communities were sent to walk on the prohibited roads each day. The leaders of the movement were all arrested within the next few days.
  • As a response to overwhelming support to the movement, the temple authorities started barricading the roads. Satyagrahis positioned outside the barriers and started hunger strike.

Support to the Movement

  • Role of Periyar: ‘Periyar’ E.V. Ramasamy was requested to lead the campaign. Periyar mobilized support from nearby areas through his speeches.
    • He was arrested and imprisoned for one month before being arrested again in July 1924. He was sentenced to rigorous imprisonment for four months.
  • Support of forward castes: Members of forward castes marched from Travancore till the royal palace at Tiruvananthapuram, in a show of solidarity for the social reform.
  • Cross-religious support:  The Akalis (Sikhs) from Punjab gave their support by opening a community kitchen (langar) for the volunteers. Christian and Muslim leaders also supported the movement.
    • Gandhiji was not in favour of this development, as he wanted the agitation to be a “Hindu affair”.
  • Religious leaders: Religious leaders such as Chattampi Swamikal and Sree Narayana Guru gave support to the movement.
  • Mahatma Gandhi’s role: Mahatma Gandhi, who till now had only provided guidance to the movement, arrived at Vaikom in March 1925.
    • He met with the Regent Maharani to arrive at a compromise and settle the issue once for all.

Success of the Movement

  • Opening roads: On November 23, 1925, three roads, excluding Eastern entrance road to the Vaikom temple, were thrown open to all castes.
    • The Vaikom Satyagraha was officially withdrawn on November 30, 1925 after consultations between Gandhi and the then police commissioner of Travancore.
    • In 1928, oppressed castes were given the right to move on public roads in the vicinity of all temples in Travancore.
  • Temple entry proclamation: The movement paved the way for the historic Temple Entry Proclamation by the Maharaja of Travancore, which lifted the age-old ban on the entry of marginalized castes into Travancore temples.


  • Vaikom Satyagraha has been documented in history as one of the most non-violent struggles against caste oppression and discrimination.

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