Date of Award
Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)
Of all the Hindu communities in southern Kerala, the Īḻavas are the largest. They were, however, traditionally considered outside the pale of "varna" and treated as "untouchables" by the higher castes. A 'man of vision' of this community, Śrī Nārāyana Guru (1855-1928) introduced religious and social reforms that brought about an awakening among the Īḻavas at the beginning of the twentieth century. The consequent changes among the Īḻavas brought them to an escalating series of confrontations with the upholders of the traditional caste order. This thesis focuses on the reformation of the Īḻavas and analyses their place and position in the larger social structure. It argues that their reformation can only be understood essentially as a process of "modernization". By modernization is meant an indigenous, historical and ongoing process in which people participate both consciously and critically. The Īḻavas in their awakening have incorporated the values of modernity into their culture without losing the core values of the tradition. The history of the awakening of the Īḻavas is, therefore, a case study of modernization within the framework of traditional Hindu society. In order to make this case study a field was chosen for research in consideration of maximum suitability. That field is an area of southern Kerala called Murukkumpula, not far from Trivandrum, the capital of Kerala. In view of the stress on change and continuity, which is the theme of the thesis, the field research has helped to establish that the modes of change in this particular area can be seen exhibited in the leadership of an elite; a reorientation of values; a rationalistic and democratic approach to the direction of change; an expression of freedom and responsibility among the members; social mobility based on equality and overall development and a network of institutions that sustain and propagate the ideals of the movement and hold the community together.
Jacob, George, "CHANGE AND CONTINUITY IN THE RELIGIOUS LIFE OF THE ĪḺAVAS OF SOUTHERN KERALA" (1986). Open Access Dissertations and Theses. Paper 3474.