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Temple road – Vaikom, Kerala

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Situated in the North-west of Kottayam district in Kerala, Vaikom is the oldest township and is famous for its Vaikom Shiva Temple. This temple has been the venue of the Vaikom Satyagraha which was led by TK Madhavan in the year 1924 to establish the rights of lower castes to walk through the temple road. As per the customs of those days, while the Christians and Muslim were allowed to walk freely around the area, the Avarnas were not allowed to enter the temple and notice boards were put up to prohibit them from entering and to remind them of their inferior status. This inferior treatment was due to the notification passed by the High Court of the Government of Travancore in 1865 to draw a distinction between raja veedhis (king’s highways) and grama veedhis (village roads).

In order to demand an outright entry in the temple, TK Madhavan became a member of the Tranvancore legislature and met the then Divan Raghaviah at his residence to request him to reconsider his decision of denial to the proposal put forth by him. Since Madhavan’s main objective was to get the temple entry, he understood that the right to use public roads around the temple was the first step. Hence he came up with the idea of launching an agitation at Vaikom against forbidding the use of roads around the temple, as an activity of the SNDP Yogam. He discussed the idea with Sardar KM Panikkar, who suggested making it a symbolic battle against atrocities in the name of caste to gain the attention of the world. And in order to go ahead with the agitation it was important to include it as an activity of the Indian National Congress and get Mahatma Gandhi’s approval.

Madhavan apprised Gandhi on the issue at Tirunelveli on September 23, 1921 and gained his confidence. Gandhi promised to write to the State Congress Committee to take up the issue. Madhavan attended the Kakinada AICC meet (1923) along with Panikkar and KP Kesava Menon, and tried to convince the members of the need to eradicate untouchability. Agreeing to lend their full support to the Vaikom movement, the Congress authorised the Kerala Provincial Congress Committee (KPCC) to undertake the task. The KPCC met at Ernakulam on January 24, 1924 and formed Untouchability Abolition Committee (UAC) consisting of K Kelappan (convener), T K Madhavan, Kurur Nilakantan Namboothiri, TR Krishna Swami Iyer, and K Velayudha Menon.

With the news of the agitation reaching far and wide, it evoked a mixed response. Satyagraha Ashram was set up near south of the temple which witnessed huge number of volunteer participation from different parts of the country. The agitation was stalled for a couple of days to try for a compromise between Hindu leaders and the Congress. When all talks failed, Madhavan and KP Kesava Menon (KPCC president) who volunteered were courted arrest. After the death of Maharajah of Travancore, Moolah Thirunal on August 7, 1924, his niece Maharani Sethu Lakshmi Bayi came to power, and released all the prisoners as part of her installation ceremony and played an important role towards the end of the Vaikom Satyagraha after meeting Mahatma Gandhi.

Nearby attractions in Kottayam are Thazhathangadi Mosque, Kumarakom Bird Sanctuary, Valiyapalli Church and Vembanad Lake.

How to reach there

By Air: Cochin International Airport is about 76 km from Kottayam.
By Rail: Vaikom Road Railway Station, on the Ernakulam – Kottayam line, is the nearest railway station. However, the nearest major station is Kottayam Railway Station, about 25 km away.
By Road: Regular bus services are available to Vaikom from major cities and towns nearby including Kottayam, Ernakulam, Kozhikode, and Thiruvananthapuram. Vaikom Bus Station, operated by KSTRC, lies on the Ettumanoor – Ernakulam Highway (State Highway 15).

Where to stay

There are hotels which cater to all budget travellers – from homestay options to resorts and three-star hotels.

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