Temple as the Site of Struggle: Social Reform, Religious Symbols and the Politics of Nationalism in Kerala (Miscellanea)


The temple entry movement of the 1920s and ’30s in Kerala, South India, has become a landmark in the history of social reform and nationalist movements for its uniqueness and sweeping success. Popular history has presented the episode as an integral part of the Nationalist Movement and the Gandhian Constructive Programme mainly because the temple-entry issue was endorsed by the Kerala State Congress Committee and the agitation was concluded under its auspices. But this popular and idealist impression of the movement has been challenged from various quarters. It is pointed out that there have been very little attempts at linking the event with the advancing civic rights movement led by the lower caste people for freedom of worship and social equality which was gaining a radical turn by the 20s and 30s; the pressure exerted by the untouchables to achieve civic freedom even at the cost of renouncing Hinduism had created an alarming situation which no caste-Hindu could ignore. Even more surprising is the absence of academic attempts to link the agitation with the Malabar Rebellion of 1921; in fact the Rebellion had challenged the very survival of the Congress organization in Kerala; this factor forced them to retreat from the earlier secular plane to a religious idiom of politics for which the question of temple-entry served their purpose. The Temple entry movement, therefore, has to be studied in the light of the antipathy shown by the Congress towards popular and radical agitations and in the context of its growing tendency to incline towards Hindu symbols in politics as a means to escape addressing vital and burning social issues.

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Manmathan, M. (2013). Temple as the Site of Struggle: Social Reform, Religious Symbols and the Politics of Nationalism in Kerala. Advances in Historical Studies, 2, 57-69. doi: 10.4236/ahs.2013.22010.

Conflicts of Interest

The authors declare no conflicts of interest.


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