A social reformer, revolutionary, poet, rationalist, an impeccable administrator and a legislator who brought in several landmark legislations, Sahodaran Ayyappan is considered one of the foremost figures who changed the face of history in Kerala.
Ayyappan was born on August 21,1889 in Cherai, Vypeen in Ernakulam. Kumabalathuparambil Kochavu Vaidyar and Unnuli were his parents.
After completing formal education, he joined for a pre-degree course at Malabar Christian College. After completing B.A. in Literature from Maharajah's College in Ernakulam, he took a B.L. degree as well. Even during his college days, Ayyappan was involved in public discourses where he vociferously voiced about the rights of the marginalised and questioned their subjugation by the elite upper class.
Enamoured by the philosophy of social reformer Sree Narayana Guru, Ayyappan became his disciple. A staunch rationalist, Ayyappan launched a magazine titled Yukthivadi in 1928 to propagate rationalistic thoughts in a society fraught with superstition and casteism.
He is noted for the great strides taken to thwart the caste system prevalent in Kerala. He launched the Sahodara Sangham (Brotherhood Association) as a platform for young men interested in initiating social change. What can be considered a milestone in Kerala renaissance movement is the Misra Bhojanam (inter-dining of upper castes and outcastes) initiated by Ayyappan which was a highly revolutionary activity that was condemned by not just the upper-class elites but also certain reformists. This inter-dining earned him the name of ‘Pulayan Ayyappan’, addressing him as a member of Dalit community. But all these taunts never dissuaded Ayyappan but further emboldened him and only propelled him to launch more revolutionary ideas.
A journal titled ‘Sahodaran’ was also started to help promote renaissance thoughts. He got the prefix Sahodaran to his name after this. He also coined a rejoinder Jati Venda, Matam Venda, Deivam Venda Manushyanu (No Caste, No Religion, No God for Mankind) to the slogan Oru Jaathi Oru Matham Oru Daivam Manushyanu (One Caste, One Religion, One God for Mankind) of social reformer Sree Narayana Guru.
He was elected into the Kochi Assembly in 1928. He was made a Minister for Public Works in 1947. After the unification of Travancore and Kochi in 1949, he became a Minister in the Thirukochi State. Sahodaran Ayyappan made history by resigning from his post as Minister when the government he was part of decided to lay off employees in the lower rungs citing austerity measures. His extraordinary foresight and meticulous planning reflects in the many projects implemented whilst serving as the Minister. He is still considered one among the few upstanding members in the political milieu.
He was married to Parvathy Ayyappan and is survived by daughter Aisha Gopalakrishnan. During the later stages of his life, Ayyappan regularly penned articles on various topics for ‘Vivekodayam’ magazine.
He breathed his last on March 6, 1968. His death marked the end of an era and the legacy left behind by this stalwart will remain etched in the annals of Kerala’s socio-cultural renaissance history.
Click here to know about the Sahodaran Ayyappan Memorial, Cherayi