Namboothiri Websites, Calicut, Kerala
(A Voluntary and Non-profit-oriented forum for documenting Namboothiri traditions in web)

Daakshinaathya Brahma Sabha and Akhilakeralam


Daakshinaathya Brahma Sabha and Akhilakeralam were two movements among the Namboothiri Braahmanans of central Thiruvithaamkoor in the first decade of the 20th century. Social movements aimed at the reformation of customs and beliefs were first begun in Kerala by Sree Narayana Guru, the spiritual seer who organised the Ezhva community and educated them for self-liberation. Similar movements were started by Ayyankali, the veteran fighter for the cause of the untouchables; by Chattampi Swaamikal the saint-leader of the Nair community; and by Kurur Unni Nambudiripad and V T Bhattathiripad, the pioneers of modernisation among the Malayaala Braahmanans for whom the Namboothiri Yogakshema Mahaa Sabha [Click here] became the vanguard of social revolution.

There were several strands of local and cultural movements which joined forces with the Yogakshemam and finally merged into it. Though Kerala had not been unified politically at that time, these groundswells of change in erstwhile Malabar, Kochi and Thiruvithaamkoor, gained an all-Kerala dimension, as they were unified by the common heritage of Braahmanan culture as well as by Malayalam, their mother tongue.

1. Daakshinaathya Brahma Sabha

Daakshinaathya Brahma Sabha was mainly a movement of the Saagara Braahmanans, so called because the word "Saagara" in Sanskrit denotes the number 237 (by the Kalpaganitha system of calculation) which is the total number of Namboothiri families in this particular sect. [Click here for Saagara Braahmanans]. They founded a branch of the Payyannur Sree Raaghaveswaram Sabha Yogam at Thiruvalla and maintained all social contacts with their brethren in Malabar. The Daakshinaathya Brahma Sabha movement was centered at Thiruvalla; but, evidently its influence spread to Payyannur Saagara Braahmanans also and quickened the process of modernisation.

The young men who came up with the message of change against the centres of orthodoxy had only minimal demands at first. They wanted to educate all Namboothiri boys in the English schools, along with their traditional Sanskrit and Vedic lessons; to allow women to wear gold ornaments instead of the traditional bronze ones; then at a later stage, to send girls also to schools; to get the voices of the bride and the bridegroom reckoned before fixing up marriages; to limit the dowry to an amount within the reach of everybody, etc.

As early as 1908, these youngsters had acquired sufficient strength and capital to start publication of a socio-cultural monthly magazine named "Dharma Bodhini", which went on for three years with tremendous success. It was committed to the transformation and betterment of the Namboothiri community. The editor of the magazine was Seeravelli V Narayanan Namboodiri and the Publisher was Periamana P S Vishnu Namboodiri. The magazine handled a variety of subjects from poetry, novel and drama to philosophy, social change and history. A translation of Shakespeare's Othello was serialised in it in 1909. The writers were stars of the day like Ulloor, Vallathol, Kerala Varma, Nalappadan, Pandalam Thampuran and C S Subrahmanian Potti. The magazine served as a mighty weapon to achieve the objectives of the Sabha; and eventually, the stern orthodox families had to relent to the demand of the youngsters and send their children to English schools without, ofcourse, giving up their Vedic education and training.

For the first time, a Namboothiri woman (Devaki Antharjanam of Padinjaare Seeravelli Illam) in Thiruvalla got bold enough to come out of her palm-leaf umbrella and sit with her husband before a non-Braahmanan to be photographed. This photo is still preserved in her house. The young Namboothiri husband is in trousers, neck-tie and coat, with a turban which conceals his thin forelock.

In March 1913, the D B Sabha became a formal organised body with a President, a Secretary, a Treasurer, an Executive Committee and an Auditor of accounts - all offices being elected for a year. Gradually the scope of the Sabha's activities became wider and better-defined. It convened several regular sessions in a year, with special meets as necessitated by circumstances. Its annual meetings were big events in the closed community of Namboothiris. Minutes and annual reports were printed out and circulated for every member's approval. It is recorded that disputes among the member-families were settled often through negotiation and mediation by the Sabha, instead of taking them to the court of law which involves waste of money, time and effort.

For five years the Sabha went well under the admirable joint leadership of P S Vishnu Namboodiri the President and Seeravelli V Narayanan Namboodiri the Secretary. Unfortunately, in March 1918, the President died of small pox which was a hard blow beyond endurance to the Secretary who, broken-hearted, resigned for retirement from all public work. The Sabha continued its mission for a few more years with Edamana Krishnan Namboodiri as its Secretary.

In November 1910, the third annual conference of the Namboothiri Yogakshema Mahaa Sabha was held at Bhaaratheebhooshanam Mathham in Thrissur. Representing D B Sabha, P S Vishnu Namboodiri attended that conference and moved a proposal to radically reform the institution of marriage among the Kerala Braahmanans. His speech had come out in print as a booklet. It now serves as a mirror of the historic change that swept across the world of Namboothiris throughout Kerala, of the gradual dissolution of minor denominational differences among them, and of the great merger and upheaval led by VT, EMS and MRB under the banner of Yogakshemam. By then, modernisation was afoot; and local movements like D B Sabha had survived their utility.

2. Akhilakeralam

Akhilakeralam was not so much organised or formal like Daakshinaathya Brahma Sabha. But judged by its impact, it appears even more powerful and broad-based. It was a movement started by the different sub-divisions of Malayala Braahmanans like Namboothiri, Potti, Elayathu, Adikal, etc. and also Embraanthiris and Moothathu. Inspired by modern education and by the example of other communities, a number of young men from all these Braahmanan strata came together and formed a common platform. Without any definite schedule or programme, they all stood together for liberation from orthodoxy and for pursuit of individual and social freedom. They were virulent; they enjoyed support from poets like Thekkedam Govindan Namboodiri, and Panniyodu Govindan Namboodiri who was inspired by Gandhian ideals in his later phase. Cutting across petty prejudices and differences, the movement spread over the entire Namboothiri spectrum of Thiruvithaamkoor. Elamon Mana, Kumaramangalam, Vellimana, Chennamangalam, Chengarappally, Kottavattam, Edamana and several other families witnessed scenes of unconventional weddings and Sraadhams, with full participation of all types of Namboothiris in the performance of Vedic rituals. Among the few surviving records of the movement, a play, "Konthrakkatinte Manthrakkettu" written by Muttam Sankaran Potti deserves special mention. It was presented by a band of young enthusiasts (not necessarily artists always) on many social gatherings of Namboothiris in order to call them up for an awakening.

| Article No:24.9 | Last update of this article:6th July 2001 |
Article written by: Prof: Vishnu Narayanan Namboodiri, "Sreevally", Sastha Garden, Thycaud, Thiruvananthapuram - 695014, Phone : 0471-336911

Home | What is New.. | Members | Welcome, Sponsors ! | Search For.. | Your Feedback

Copyright © 2000 Namboothiri Websites Calicut. All rights reserved.