SAINTS, STATESMEN AND ATHLETES
   


Adi Sankaracharya

Adi Sankaracharya was born in Kaladi in the year A.D. 805, is considered as one of the greatest philosophers, sage and poet of all times. Sankara was born at a time when Hinduism was in its decline due to division. He changed the outlook of Hindu literature into a simplified and easy to understand style and reinterpreted the Brahma Sutra, Upanishads and the Gita.

In a relatively small span of life of 32 years, Sankaracharya accomplished his mission travelling all over India, establishing monasteries, reforming worship, writing philosophical treatises, debating with leaders of other religious traditions and teaching students who flocked to him for spiritual guidance.

Kuriakose Elias Chavara
(*10.2.1805 3.1.1871)
Also known as Cyriacus Elias Chavara was born in Kainakary, Kerala. Ordained as priest in 1829, he co-founded the Congregation of the Carmelites of Mary Immaculate and was its first Prior-General. The main work of the Congregation is education aiming at the intellectual, social, economic, moral and spiritual advancement of people with special emphasis on women and children. He became Vicar-General of the Syro-Malabar church in 1861 and defended ecclesiastic unity threatened by division; worked to renew the faith in the Malabar Church; co-founded the Congregation of the Sisters of the Mother of Carmel in 1866. A man of prayer with devotion to the Eucharista and the Virgin Mary, Fr. Kuriakose was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Kottayam on 8 February 1986.
Saint Mar Gregorios of Parumala
(*15.06.1848 02.11.1902)
Saint Mar Gregorios of Parumala, venerably and lovingly called “Parumala Kochu Thirumeni” was born to Mathai and Maria at Mulanthuruthy on 15 June 1848. He chose the life of a sage at the age of ten, and became a Metropolitan at the age of twenty eight in 1876. Mar Gregorios stayed at Parumala while being the Metropolitan of Niranam Diocese. He was called to eternal rest on 2 November 1902.

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Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius(*31.10.1858 †23.02. 1934)

Vattasseril Geevarghese Mar Dionysius, universally known as “Malankara Sabha Bhasuran” (Great Luminary of the Malankara Church) in recognition of his immense contribution as its Head Priest, is the modern architect of the Malankara Orthodox Syrian Church.

Sree Narayana Guru
(*20.08.1854 20.09.1928)
"Progress through Education"

"Strength through Organization"

"One Caste, One Religion, One God for Man"

 

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Johann Ernst Hanxleden (Arnos Paathiri)
(*1681 † 20.03.1732)

(born at Ostercappeln in Osnabrück near Hanover, Germany, 1681; died at Palayur near Thrissur (Trichur),
Kerala, 20 March 1732), known as Arnos Paathiri [Padre Ernst] in Kerala, was a Malayalam/Sanskrit poet, grammarian, lexicographer, and philologist. In addition to German, and mastery of Malayalam and Sanskrit, Hanxleden had a good command over Latin, Portuguese, Syriac, and Tamil.

As a student of philosophy Hanxleden volunteered for service as a Jesuit missionary in Kerala. Together with his superiors Wilhelm Weber and Wilhelm Mayer, and one doctor Franz Kaspar Schillinger, he set forth on 30 October 1699; travelling through Italy, Turkey, Syria, Armenia, and Persia, he set foot in Surat on 13 December 1700. Weber and Mayer had died at sea; Schillinger would later write an account of the perilous voyage.

Later on Hanxleden travelled through Goa to the Jesuit seminary at Ampazhakkad in Kerala, completed his religious studies, and was ordained as a priest. He moved to Palayur and, after surmounting several formidable barriers, learnt Sanskrit and Malayalam from two Namboodiri Brahmins, Kunjan and Sankaran from Kalady, who were students in the Trichur Sanskrit School. Afterwards he served as Secretary to John Ribeiro (the Archbishop of Cranganore from 1701 to 1716) for a few years; during this time he travelled extensively throughout Kerala on various missions such as preacher and catechist. Afterwards, Hanxleden moved to a small village, namely Velur, near Trichur in 1712 and built a church there, which became his abode for most of his remaining life.

The Puththenpaana, a Malayalam epic on the life of Christ, is his most celebrated work, which is one of the earliest poems written in simple Malayalam. It has been an inalienable part of Christian (not restricted to Catholic) life in Kerala since the time of its composition. Its paadhams [cantos] are sung in a characteristic manner in Christian households on various solemn occasions, the most notable ones being Holy Thursday, Good Friday, and other days of Holy Week and Lent, and evenings preceding funerals. The poem consists of fourteen paadhams; the couplets are written in the sarppini vruththam [metre], except for those in the twelfth paadham, which are in the nathonnatha metre. The poet tells us in the first paadham that he is writing the poem at the request of Antonio Pimental, Archbishop of Crangannore. Since Pimental held the ecclesiastical office from 1721 to 1752, we can assume that the poem was composed some time during this period.

The second paadham is concerned with the Fall of Man; fourth with the Annunciation, fifth with the Nativity, seventh with the Sermon on the Mount, tenth with the Last Supper, the eleventh with trial and Crucifixion, the twelfth paadham concerns itself with the artistic theme of Michelangelo's pieta. The paadham deals with the lament of Virgin Mary at the crucifixion and death of Jesus. The thirteenth paadham deals with the Resurrection, and the fourteenth with the Ascension.

The Chathuranthyam is a mystic poem on the four ends of man: maranam [death], vidhi [judgement], moksham [paradise], and narakam [perdition]; parts of the poem are sung on occasions similar to the Puththenpaana recitals. Please click the following link for a real taste of thisfamouswork:

http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/d/db/


Puththenpaana.pdf While his poems are written works, they also have a strong oral tradition; many pious Christians retain his poetical works in their minds and are able to recite it by heart.

Hanxleden was the first to compile a Malayalam dictionary. His lexicon describes Malayalam words in both Sanskrit and Portuguese (the then predominant European language in India). He also wrote a short and succinct grammar (the earliest) for the Malayalam language.

Hanxleden and his predecessor, Heinrich Roth, were the pioneering European Sanskrit scholars: he was the first European to write a Sanskrit grammar, and also the first European to compose Sanskrit verse.

Hanxleden died at Palayur of a snake-bite, and is buried there in the ancient church founded by St. Thomas. Paulinus of St. Bartholomew [Johann Philipp Wesdin, known as Paulinus Paathiri (1748-1806)] of the Carmelite order, who had lived in Kerala from 1776 to 1789, brought some of Hanxleden's works, such as his Sanskrit grammar, to Europe, and also wrote about Hanxleden and his writings extensively in his memoirs.

His home, and the Church, St. Francis Xavier Forane Church) he built, are preserved as historical monuments
in Velur. Among various exhibits at the museum are the
bed used by Hanxleden, and the chathurangam (the Indian ancestor of chess, which Hanxleden used to play) columns marked on the floor of his home. The well dug during his times is still used for drinking water.

Dr. Hermann Gundert
(*04.02.1814 † 25.04.1893)

Dr. Hermann Gundert, grandfather of the renowned German Poet Hermann Hesse, is a household name among the Keralites, who enriched the Malayalam language with his contribution by writing a grammar and a dictionary. Born on 4 February 1814 in Stuttgart, Gundert studied philosophy and protestant theology in Tuebingen, where he did his doctorate as philologist. He came to Kerala as a private tutor in 1836. He was appointed School Inspector of Kanara and Malabar by the British colonial administration in 1857. Joining as a missionary with the Basel Mission in 1838, Gundert worked in Kerala for 23 years.

Gundert lived in Tellicherry, now named Thalassery, for more than 20 years, where the mother (Marie Gundert: 18.10.1842-24.4.1902)) of his famous grandson Hermann Hesse (2.7.1877-9.8.1962) was born. He was forced to return to Germany on health reasons in 1859, where he started to work for the Calw Publishing House that he headed until his death on 25 April 1893. Dr Gundert wrote and published several works in different languages. His Malayalam Grammar published in 1868 and Malayalam-English Dictionary published in 1872 has been of immense help for the promotion and development of Malayalam language and literature.

To commemorate the work of Gundert, Kerala honoured this patron of Malayalam language by launching a Gundert Foundation School in 1996, on the occasion of his 100th death anniversary.

 
Alphonsa of Bharananganam
(19.8.1910 28.7.1946)

Also known as Alphonsa of India, Anna Muttathu-padathu, The Passion Flower of Bharananganam, was born in Kudamalloor, Kerala to Joseph and Mary Muttathupadathu.

After her mother’s death Anna was raised by her maternal aunt and was educated by her great-uncle Fr. Joseph Muttathupadathu.

Anna contracted an infected eczema at the age of 3 from which she suffered very much. After accidentally falling into a pit of burning chaff, she was badly burned on feet; joined the Poor Clare Convent at Bharananganam on 2 August 1928, taking the name Alphonsa.

Taught at primary school, children loved her for her gentleness and cheery way. Health problems often kept her away from classroom. She was miraculously cured of her ailments in December 1936 through the intercession of St. Therese of Lisieux and Kuriakose Elias Chavara. However, in June 1939 she was struck by a severe attack of pneumonia, weakening her overall. Her condition continued to deteriorate for months, and was given last rites on 29 September 1941. The next day, she regained memory, though not complete health. She enjoyed some improvement over the next few years, but in July 1945 developed a stomach problem that eventually led to her death.

Sr. Alphonsa was noted for her suffering, and suffering in silence. Valerian Cardinal Gracias of Bombay said of her, "She did not want her sufferings to be reduced in the least by human attention and sympathy, nor did she want others know of her suffering. This is a strange expression of humility, which seeks that others should never think of you".

Incidents of her intervention began almost immediately upon her death, and often involved the children in the convent school. Hundreds of miraculous cures are claimed through her intervention, many involving straightening of clubbed-feet, possibly because of her having lived with deformed feet herself; two of these were submitted to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints as proof of her miraculous intervention. The continuing cures are chronicled in the magazine PassionFlower. Mother Alphonsa was beatified by Pope John Paul II at Kottayam on 8 February 1986. Thousands converge on the small township of Bharananganam to celebrate the feast of Blessed Alphonsa every year from 19 to 28 July.

Grains of wheat, when ground in the mill, turn in to flour.
With this flour we make the wafer of the holy Eucharist.
Grapes, when crushed in the wine press, yield their juice.
This juice turns into wine.
Similarly, suffering so crushes us that we turn into better human beings.

Bharatha Kesari Mannathu Padmanabhan
(*02.01. 1878 †02.02.1970)

Born to Chiramuttathu Parvathy Amma and Eswaran Namboodiri of Nilavana Illam in Perunna on 2nd January 1878, Sree Mannathu Padmanabhan (respectfully called "Mannam") is a celebrated personality who dedicated his whole life for the social and economic development of the Nair community. He started his professional life as a teacher at the Kanjirapally Government Primary School in 1893, later practising as a successful lawyer.

In 1914 "Nair Bhruthya Jana Sangham", the predecessor to the Nair Service Society (N.S.S.), was formed to organise and bring social and economic changes in the Nair community. In 1915 he gave up a lucrative practice as a lawyer and became full-time Secretary of the Nair Bhruthya Jana Sangham. He participated in the Vaikkom Satyagraham on 30 March 1924 and Guruvayoor Temple Entry and led the famous "Savarna Jadha" (Upper Caste Rally) on 1 October 1924 to protest against untouchability.

He was married to Mechettu Kalyani Amma in 1901; however, following her untimely death in 1912, he was married to "Thottakkattu Madhavi Amma", the daughter of Dewan Peshkar (Prime Minister) of Cochin, on 15 May 1932. She was the first woman in the Cochin Legislative Council.

Mannathu Padmanabhan Pillai renamed himself as "Padmanabhan" removing the surname, stating that caste should not be a dividing factor amongst the human beings. Mannam became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1947 and took part in the Travancore State Congress agitation against the administration of Sir C.P Ramaswamy Iyer. He became a member of the Travancore Legislative Assembly in 1949.

He led the united opposition struggle “Vimochana Samaram" (Liberation Struggle) against the unpopular Communist Ministry of Kerala in 1959, which led to its dismissal by the President of India. This made him the first leader in the world ever to bring down Communist Government by democratic means. This earned him the popular name “Bharatha Kesari” (“Lion of India”).

Mannam established, expanded and enriched the Nair Service Society making the community an undisputed political and economic power in Kerala. In recognition of his selfless service to the community and to the nation, President of the Republic of India awarded him "Padma Bhushan" on 26 January 1966.

Mannam passed away on 2 February 1970; his mortal remains were cremated at the premises of the Changanasserry N.S.S. Hindu College.

Sree Chithira Thirunal Bala Rama Varma
(*07.11.1912 † 19.07.1991)

His Highness Sree Padmanabha Dasa Vanchi Pala Sir Bala Rama Varma II [Sree Chithira Thirunal] Kulasekhara Kiritapati Manney Sultan Maharaja Raja Ramaraja Bahadur Shamsher Jang, G.C.S.I., G.C.I.E., was the last Ruler of the princely State of Travancore before India’s independence. He was the eldest son of Maharani Sethu Parvathi Bai and Raja Ravi Varma. Bala Rama Varma was educated privately and became the Ruler of Travancore upon the death of his uncle, Uthradom Thirunal Rama Varma, on 7 August 1924. He reigned under the regency of his aunt Rani Sethu Lakshmi Bai (1924-1931) until he came of age and was invested with full ruling powers on 6 November 1931. (Rani Lakshmi Bai abolished the animal sacrifice and replaced the matrilineal system of inheritance with patrilineal system).

Sree Chithira Thirunal was a great visionary; simplicity graced him. He earned his name in the annals of history with the Temple Entry Proclamation on 12 November 1936, which came to be known as the spiritual Magna Carta of Travancore that opened the Temples to all Hindus - a privilege reserved only for the upper caste Hindus till then.

Royal Proclamation
May the truth and reality of our Faith be known in all its profundity.
BELIEVING it to be founded on divine directions and an all-pervading spirit of tolerance,
UNDERSTANDING that it has for centuries been keeping in harmony with changes in the tides of times,
CONCERNED that none of our Hindu subjects should be denied the peace and happiness on the basis of birth, caste or community,
WE made a decision and thus proclaim to command carrying out of activities and customs in relevant situations.
UNDER the rules and regulations that apply none who is born or by faith a Hindu shall be prevented from entering any temple under the jurisdiction of our government.

On this Thursday the 12th day of November 1936
Under the seal of: Sree Padmanabha Dasa Vanchi Pala Sir Bala Rama Varma II [Sree Chithira Thirunal] Kulasekhara Kiritapati Manney Sultan Maharaja Raja Ramaraja Bahadur Shamsher Jang in his wisdom.
Mahatma Gandhi visited His Highness after the Temple Entry Proclamation to pay his respects, and said that it was not a trip but a pilgrimage. The carpet on which the Mahatma sat is now a prized possession with the Royal family.

According to the noted writer-journalist and historian Anees Jung the most ancient royal families of India are the Houses of Udaipur and Travancore.
Women have always been very educated and progressive in the Royal Family, which is evident from what Eleanor Roosevelt wrote after her return to America from a trip to Travancore; she wrote: "I went to a State at the extreme tip of India. Here the King's son is not the king, but the King's sister is a very important person. Anyway, it is very good for the women."

Upon India's independence on 15 August 1947, the King signed the instrument of accession. Travancore was merged with Cochin and the King became a Raja Pramukh (Principal King) of the Travancore-Cochin Union from 1 July 1949 until 31 October 1956. On 28 December 1971 he lost his titles when Government of India under Indira Gandhi de-recognised the rulers of the former Indian princely states and abolished their privy purses.

During his reign Bala Rama Varma established the University of Travancore (now the University of Kerala) in 1937 and was its first Chancellor. He also had a beautiful palace built which is now a museum. The Sree Chithira Institute of Medical Sciences at Thiruvananthapuram, formerly Trivandrum, is named after him. He died at the Kaudiar Royal Palace at the age of 78 years on 19 July 1991. “Travancore mourned when he died". His brother, Uthradom Thirunal Marthanda Varma, succeeded him.


Vocabulary: Padmanabha Dasa: Servant of Vishnu, the Royal Deity | Vanchi Pala = King of Vanchi (Travancore) | Thirunal: "star", the usual suffix to the star name of a member of the Royal Family | Kulasekhara: Head Sekhara Race | Kiritapati: Possessor of the Diadem | Manney Sultan: the Pearl of Rulers | Shamsher Jang: Sword of War |
(Suzanna) Arundhati Roy
(*24.11.1961)
(Suzanna) Arundhati Roy was born in Shillong, Meghalaya on 24 November 1961 to a Bengali Hindu father and a Syrian Christian mother, Mary Roy, from Kerala. The marriage broke up, and Arundhati spent her childhood years in Aymanam with her mother, which influenced her writings, both thematically and structurally.
Arundhati’s mother, herself a prominent social activist, founded an independent school and taught her daughter informally. This freedom from intellectual constraint allowed Arundhati to write, as she puts it, according to the ability to follow her inner voice, rather than having a set of restrictive rules ingrained in her. She comments, "When I write, I never re-write a sentence because for me my thought and my writing are one thing. It's like breathing; I don't re-breathe a breath...."
In addition to the style of her writing, its subject matter also reflects the cultural texture of her childhood. She says of Kerala that, "it is the only place in the world where religions coincide, there is Christianity, Hinduism, Marxism and Islam and they all live together and rub each other down...I was aware of the different cultures when I was growing up and I'm still aware of them now. When you see all the competing beliefs against the same background you realise how they all wear each other down."
At age sixteen Arundhati left home for Delhi, where she got enrolled at the Delhi School of Architecture. This training, like her elementary education, proved instrumental in shaping her as a writer. Initially she worked on projects for the screen, writing first a television serial and on screenplays, which brought her no success. Her critical analysis of the celebrated film "Bandit Queen" landed her in a lawsuit.
In the aftermath she focussed her energies on The God of Small Things, published in April 1997, which was awarded the Booker Prize - the first Indian woman ever to achieve this honour. She says that her use of English was not so much a conscious decision for her as a choice imposed on her because "there are more people in India that speak English than there are in England. And the only common language that we have throughout India is English. And it's odd that English is a language that, for somebody like me, is a choice that is made for me before I'm old enough to choose. It is the only language that you can speak if you want to get a good job or you want to go to a university. All the big newspapers are in English. And then every one of us will speak at least two or three - I speak three - languages. And when we communicate - let's say I'm with a group of friends - our conversation is completely anarchic because it's in any language that you choose."
The acclamation made her an instant celebrity, but the traditional trappings of literary fame were accompanied by a certain amount of notoriety due to the book's controversial treatment of delicate subject matter. Charges of anti-Communism were levelled against Arundhati because of her portrayal of the Communist characters; the Chief Minister of Kerala claimed that this, and not the book's literary merit, was the reason for its popularity in the West. In addition, she faced charges of obscenity and demands that the final chapter of the book be removed because of its sexual content. Roy attributed these hostile reactions not to the "eroticism (which is mild) but rather to the book's explicit treatment of the role of the untouchables in India...."
Most recently, Arundhati has been involved in protesting against the Narmada Dam Project. Her article: "The Greater Common Good" in Frontline pour scorn on a project that could force millions to abandon their homes in order to provide limited benefits to a limited number of people. She has demonstrated against construction of the dam both in the Narmada Valley, and globally in an effort to heighten awareness and obtain support for the cause. In January 2000 she was arrested during a protest in the Valley, and released two days later.
 
Payyoli Tevaraparampil Usha
P.T. Usha was born in a poor family in the village Meladi-Payyoli near Kozhikode.
Queen of Indian track and field for two decades, Usha made her international debut at the Moscow Olympics in 1980; she shone into the limelight in the 1982 Asian Games in New Delhi, winning the silver in the 100m and 200m events.
The finest, but also perhaps the saddest moment in Usha’s career came in a single race at the 1984 Olympics in Los Angeles. In the 400m hurdles Usha missed winning the bronze by just 1/100th of a second in a photo-finish.

At the Asian Meet in Jakarta in 1985 Usha established herself as the Asian sprint queen with five gold medals (in the 100m, 200m, 400m, 400m hurdles and the 4x400m relay) besides a bronze in the 100m relay. This magnificent performance was followed by an equally brilliant spell an year later at the Asian Games at Seoul where Usha notched up four gold and one silver medals.

Usha’s last international appearance was at the Asian Meet in Fukuoka, Japan in 1998. She won gold in the 4x100m relay, silver in the 400m relay and a bronze each in the 200m and 400m.
Usha hung up her boots for good at the age of 36 in July 2000 with a promise to groom bright young athletes in her upcoming sports academy in Kerala.
A grateful nation heaped her with honours, such as the Arjuna Award in 1983 and the Padmashree in 1985. She was named “'Sportsperson of the Century” by the Indian Olympic Association, and till date is the Indian with most international track and field medals. In Cochin there is a road named after P. T Usha.

 
Anju Bobby George
Anju Bobby George is the first Indian woman to win a medal in athletics at any world event. Anju had previously won a medal at the Commonwealth Games and gold at the Busan Asiad Games.
Daughter of K.T. Markose and Gracy from Changanassery, Anju is married to Bobby George, a former national triple jump champion who doubles as Anju’s coach and confidant. Working with the Chennai Customs as a Preventive Officer, her career took an about turn when she married Bobby, who also works with Chennai Customs.
Besides her parents’ love for sport, Anju is lucky she is married into a family where sport is a religion. Bobby’s father, Joseph is a Volleyball fan and is said to have constructed a court in the backyard so that his seven sons could practice. His son, Jimmy, brought the family fame when he captained India and later played as a professional in Europe. “My heart broke when Jimmy died in a car accident in Italy on 30 November 1987 at the age of 33,” says Joseph. “Anju, my daughter-in-law, gave me a reason to smile again. She has brought glory to India.”
Anju had qualified for the Sydney Olympics in 2000 but had to quit the Indian squad because of a bad ankle injury.
A proud nation has honoured the “charming lady in Saree with Padmashree and Arjuna Award.
 
Resul Pookutty
Born in 1971 in a Muslim family in Vilakkupara, Anchal about 58 km from Kollam, Resul Pookutty was the youngest of eight children born to an impoverished family. His father was a private bus ticket checker. Pookutty had to walk 6 km to the nearest school and learn under the light of a kerosene lamp as his village had no electricity. The 36-year-old Resul Pookutty has created history by becoming the first Indian to bag the best sound-mixing Oscar for the critically acclaimed film "Slumdog Millionaire" (2009). He also won the British Academy Film Awards (BAFTA) before in 2009.
He did his schooling in Malayalam medium; he had a passion for films right from his young days. Pookutty's father wanted him to become a doctor; but, he failed the medical entrance examinations.
After finishing his graduation, he took admission to a law course in 1990. Going against his father's wishes, he dropped out of Law College in Thiruvananthapuram and joined the Film and Television Institute of India (FTII), Pune in 1995.
Pookutty shared the Oscar with Ian Tapp and Richard Pryke for their work in the Mumbai-based rags-to-riches drama directed by British filmmaker Danny Boyle.
"This is unbelievable. I share this stage with two magicians...I dedicate this award to my country," Pookutty said while accepting the award.
Pookutty, who lives in Mumbai with his wife and two young children, got his big break in Bollywood with the critically acclaimed 2005 film "Black" that was directed by Sanjay Leela Bhansali. He subsequently engineered sound for productions like "Musafir" (2004), "Zinda" (2006), "Traffic Signal" (2007), "Gandhi, My Father" (2007), "Saawariya" (2007) and "Dus Kahaniyaan" (2007) apart from several others. He also designed sound for the 2008 blockbuster "Ghajini", starring Aamir Khan.
Kocheril Raman Narayanan
(*04.02.1921 †09.11.2005)
 
Kocheril Raman Narayanan was born in an extremely poor family as the fourth of seven children. His father Raman Vaidyan was a dalit practitioner of traditional medicine; his mother, though uneducated, was keen on giving him a good education.

Narayanan's official birth date is October 27, 1920; but he was born on 4 February 1921. His uncle who accompanied him to school on the first day couldn't remember the exact date and randomly chose October 27, 1920 (Note: This has been usually the practice in olden times as people didn't give much importance to dates of birth!). The date stuck and Narayanan later decided to keep it.

His ancestral home in Uzhavoor was a small hut on a hill. There was no electricity or telephone connection, no water supply and no toilet. It may seem unthinkable to many but a man who was born in such circumstances rose to occupy the Rashtrapati Bhavan (Presidential Palace) through sheer dint of merit. The Bhavan is a 340-room palace, one of the largest official residences for any head of state. The Bhavan houses the famous Mughal Gardens, nine Tennis Courts, a 14-hole Golf Course, Polo Ground, and Cricket Field, surrounded by a man-made forest!

Narayanan got a scholarship from the eminent industrialist J.R.D. Tata to study at the prestigious London School of Economics and Political Science under the leading British political theorist and intellectual Harold Laski. On his returning to India in 1948 Nehru offered him a job in the Indian Foreign Service.

Upon retirement, Narayan was appointed the Vice-Chancellor of the Jawaharlal Nehru University. Two years later Prime Minister Indira Gandhi appointed him ambassador to Washington - a post he held for four years.

Narayanan was repeatedly elected to the Lok Sabha from the Ottapalam Constituency in 1984, 1989 and 1991. He served as the Minister of State for Planning, External Affairs, and Science and Technology. He was elected Vice President of India in 1992 and as the tenth President of the Republic on 21 August 1992 for five years.

Ayyankali
(*28.08.1863 †18.06.1941)

Ayyankali was born Kali to Ayyan and Mala of Vanganoor, 13 km North of Thiruvananthapuram in Travancore, on 28 August 1863 as one of their seven children in the Pulaya caste. Later he came to be called Ayyankali. He grew up to be a tall, well-built and handsome young man, known for his physical prowess and proficiency in martial arts. He got married to an ebony beauty Chellamma of Manjamkuzhy Kottukal, Neyyattinkara in 1888. They had six sons and one daughter, Thankamma, who was married to T.T. Kesavan, later speaker of the Travancore-Cochin Legislative Assembly (T.T. Kesavan became T.T. Kesavan Sastry after he passed the "Sastry" Exam. in 1929).

One particular childhood incident made Ayyankali aware of the caste prejudices prevalent in Travancore. While playing football with children of his age the ball kicked by Ayyankali fell on the roof of the house of a Nair, who was very angry and forbade him to play with upper caste children. He went into a period of deep contemplation and came out with a secret agenda: "Civil Liberties for the Untouchables".
Kerala was not always what it is today - modern and social! It was in general, and more particularly the erstwhile princely state of Travancore (Thiruvithamcore), too notorious for its inhuman practice of untouchability. The Hindu society those days was stratified on the basis of the illusion of purity of jati (caste). “Small People” were considered sub-human. They shared pulling of plough with bullocks. They were thought of as two legged draught animals. All human rights were denied to them. The 'high' people used the 'low' people as slave labour; yet they considered the very sight of a 'low' as bad omen.

There was a fixed distance, “theendappadu”, to be kept between the “low” and “high”. Theeya/Ezhava and Pulaya kept 16 feet and 64 feet respectively from a High caste. Any “low'” who went closer than the prescribed “theendappadu” towards High caste will be chopped down" was the old Chaturvarna rule.

The 'low' were recognised by the black colour of their skin. New cloth was permitted after being blackened with coal dust or ash. Slippers (wooden), umbrella (of palm leaf), clean cloth, expensive jewellery was not permitted for the 'lows’. Only a Namboodiri (Kerala Brahmin) used umbrella in rain (in a place where it rains six months a year). The 'upper' said 'hoy' as he walked along streets and pathways. The oncoming 'low' replied 'njaavo' to give the former warning and for the latter time to hide behind bushes or thickets.

Swami Vivekananda was flabbergasted at the prevailing social fanatic system at that time that made him to thunder more than a century ago during his visit to the State in 1892: “I have wandered into a lunatic asylum”.

Ayyankali got support from such contemporaries as: Mahatma Gandhi, Sree Narayana Guru, Mannathu Padmanabhan and many other prominent illustrious personalities. The Mahatma visited him at Vanganoor to encourage and compliment the “Pulaya Raja”.

During Ayyankali's younger days, the Dalits were not allowed entry into schools. He wanted at least the next generation to have education. In 1904 the Pulayas under his leadership made efforts to start their own schools. These schools had no black boards - sand on the floor was the book and fingers the pencil. The first school in the history of Dalits was established in Vanganoor.

Ayyankali formed an organization called "Sadhu Jana Paripalana Sangham (SJPS)" which took radical direct action to achieve justice for the oppressed and subjugated community. Thus he was able to get the Government pass laws (1907) for the right of entry of Dalit children to the schools. He organised the agricultural workers and had heralded the first agrarian strike in the history of Travancore for better working conditions, which included (1) stop victimization on whims (2) end involving workers in false cases (3) stop whipping of workers (4) freedom of movement, and (5) admission of children in schools.

Branches of SJPS - the most powerful organisation after SNDP at that time - mushroomed in all villages and hamlets of Travancore, which carried out intense campaigns in all parts of Travancore from 1913 to 1930 under the leadership of Ayyankali. If Sree Narayana Guru was the Apostle of Peaceful Transition, Ayyankali was the Advocate of Militant Change!

By 1941 Ayyankali was getting old and very sick. He died of Asthma on 18 June 1941. Dalits in Kerala remain grateful to him for giving them civil liberties and breaking the chains of slavery forever.

Unveiling his statue at Kaudiar Square in Thiruvananthapuram on 10 November 1980, Prime Minister Mrs. Indira Gandhi said:

"Ayyankali is the outcome of his people's enthusiasm for equality. This great son of India was the one who sacrificed his life for the well being of his society. His qualities were too great to be contained in Kerala only. His ideas and ideals are still valid. That is the reason why I offered to unveil this statue. I am against setting up of statues in principle; so I have declined invitations to unveil statues".

"Untouchability is a deep blemish in the soul of India. It is only untouchability that has kept India backward so far. And it was in Kerala that untouchability was most acute. At the same time it was Kerala that gained fame by its Temple Entry Proclamation. Equality and Freedom are indivisible. Without equality there cannot be genuine freedom. Our leaders fought against the evil of untouchability. It was through leaders like Mahatma Gandhi that the toughest battles against untouchability were fought. The struggle for freedom must start from within the society. That was what Ayyankali did. It was due to incessant struggles of Gandhi, Ambedkar and Ayyankali that the landless poor (Harijans) were liberated."

For full reading on Ayyankali, please visit: http://www.ambedkar.org/books/AYYAN-KALI.htm#_Toc503779930
Mata Amritananda Mayi
Mata Amritananda Mayi’s (lovingly called “Amma” and popularly known as the Hugging Saint) first name was Sudhamini. “Amritanandamayi” literally means "Mother of Absolute Bliss". She was born in a fisherman's family in the tiny coastal village of Parayakadavu, near Vallikkavu, in Kollam (Quilon) District in Kerala on 27 September 1953.

Amma founded her ashram in the 1980s to receive her followers.

Amma served as President of the Centenary Parliament of World Religions in Chicago in 1993 and also spoke at the United Nations.

 
Dr. Verghese Kurien
Dr. Verghese Kurien, born on 26th November 1921, is called the "Father of the White Revolution", the largest dairy development program in the world, making India the largest milk producer in the world.

For his contribution, Dr. Kurien international and national awards, such as the Ramon Magsaysay Award for Community Leadership (1963), World Food Prize Award (1989), Padma Vibhushan (1999).

 

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