Sri Mannathu Padmanabhan

Ashok Kesavan - Monday, September 21, 2015

Chiramattathu Mannathu Padmanabhan, a social reformer and a freedom fighter from the State of Kerala, was born on 2nd January, 1878 at Perunna village in Changanassery to Easwaran Namboothiri and Mannathu Parvathiamma. He is highly considered as the founder of Nair Service Society (NSS). He was involved with the Nair Service Society as its Secretary for 31 years and as its President for three years. He was honored with the title Bharata Kesari by the President of India. He also received Padma Bhushan in 1966. He became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1947 and took part in the agitation against Sir C. P. Ramaswamy Iyer’s administration in Travancore. As the first president of Travancore Devaswom Board, he revitalized many temples which had almost ceased to function.

For nearly a century, Mannathu Padmanabhan wielded in various socio-economic and cultural sectors of Kerala history through his social activities and erudite speeches. Unfortunately, most of his speeches have been found lost. The autobiography of Mannathu Padmanabhan is considered as a true history of Kerala. His revolutionary entry into the Sree Bhadrakali temple of Perunna before the completion of customary funeral ablution was a double-edged sword against the outdated rituals of the Hindu religion. Mannam’s personal life was inextricably intertwined with the history of the N.S.S. He travelled extensively through the state, met the people, organized them and won their love and regard with the help of his disarming simplicity, single-minded devotion, will and determination.

He was entered into the world of letters in 1883 at the school of Kesavan Ashan. In 1888, he was enrolled in the Government Malayalam School of Changanassery. Due to utter penury, he had to discontinue his studies and enrolled in a Government school as a 1st standard student. In 1892, he passed sub-servant exam and became a second grade teacher in vocational school in Kanjirappally in 1893. After that, he taught in various boy’s and girl’s schools in Mazhuvannoor, Payippadu, Thuruthi, Kondoor, Thuravoor, Perunna, Kiliroor and Changanassery. While he was working as the first teacher in Thuruthi School, he married 15 year old Narayaniamma Kalyaniamma of Mechattu Veedu, in Thrikkodithanam. In 1903, he appeared for Magistrate exam privately and got passed. In 1905, while he was teacher in Changanassery middle school, he was forced to throw away his job protesting an inhuman activity of the Head Master. Within 3 months, he enrolled as an advocate in Magistrate Court, Changanassery. In 1907, his wife Narayaniamma Kalyaniamma gave birth to a girl child named Lekshmikkuttiamma. He started a Karayogam (Village Community) at Perunna in 1910 and became the secretary of it and started construction of Karayoga Mandiram. As of 2010, Nair Service Society comprised of 5300 Karayogams which are spread over Kerala with different tiers of the organization leading up to the apex body of the NSS Head Office. His wife, Kalyaniamma died of Typhoid on October 26, 1912. It is the on the same day that the inauguration of Perunna Karayogam was held. Changanassery Nair Samajam was formed in October 9, 1913. The “Nair Samudaya Brrithya Jana Sangham” was formed on October9, 1913. In 1914, he married Kuttiamma, the daughter of Keerikkattu Kakkathara Govinda Pillai. He renamed the Nair Samudaya Bhrithya Jana Sangham as “Nair Service Society” in 1915. While attending a farewell meeting of M.A. Govinda Pillai, Mannam gave up his Lawyer’s profession and step in to social service. The first All Kerala Conference of Nair Service Society was held at Changanassery under as the auspices of Nair Service Society on May 1916. The second school of Nair Service Society was started at Prakkulam on 1917 and the third one at Perunna in 1920. Kuttiamma died of Chicken Pox on 1920. The “Service” a monthly periodical was started publishing in the same year. In 1921, Mannam was elected as the member of “Sreemoolam Praja Sabha”.

In order to present the legacy right before the legislature and get it enacted, a conference of Nair Service Society under the auspices of Kerala Nair Samajam was held at Sasthamangalam in Thiruvananthapuram on 1921. A Nair Conference was convened at Ambalappuzha in order to pass a motion for attaining temple entry and performing temple rituals. The Vaikkom Satyagraha was started on March, 1924. A march led by Mannathu Padmanabhan was set of from Vaikkom on 1st November, 1924 and reached Thiruvananthapuram on 11th of the month. He met the Regent the next day and presented a memorandum. On 30thJuly 1925, the Nair Service Society was registered under The Companies Act of Travancore. In a meeting held at Durbar Hall, Thiruvananthapuram, Mannathu Padmanabhan released a letter written by Gandhiji proclaiming everyone has equal right for temple entry. On April, Nair Service Society started the “Vishupirivu”, it was the beginning of “Ulppannapirivu” (Collection of agricultural produces) on October 26, 1926. Mannam along with M.N.Nair left for Malaya with the mission of raising some fund for the activities of Nair Service Society and they came back on 23rd December. In 1927, he got 140 acres of land in Pattazhi. A Printing Press was started in 1928. Nair conference was held at Karuvaatta from May to June in 1929. Mannathu Padmanabhan inaugurated the first Nair Service Society (NSS) Karayogam initiated by Velukkutti Menon at Thatta. In 1929, a bank was also started for Nair Service Society. The Guruvayoor Sathyagraha was started in the same year. Mannathu was the Chairman of the Guruvayoor Sathyagraha.

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