Commentary on
William Logan’s ‘Malabar Manual’
The entry of the Ezhavas


Now we come to the entry of Ezhava leadership from Travancore. Some very indelible facts need to be mentioned here. There is a very strong indoctrination being promoted that it is Sree Narayana Guru or an association connected to him, the SNDP that is responsible for the social reformation in Travancore kingdom. This claims does not seem to have much basis. For, the social reformation in Travancore was connected to entirely different two items.

The first was the Missionaries of the London Missionary Society who literally entered into the social system, interacting and living with lower castes such as the Ezhavas, Shanar, Pulayas, Pariah &c. They gave them education, and made them learn many trades and skills by which they could eke a livelihood.

The second terrific influence was the English rule in the neighbouring Madras Presidency. This administration went on forcing the Travancore king’s family to give more social rights to the lower castes. Due to this, a lot of proclamations that led to more freedom to the lower castes came up.

Slavery was banned and the slaves liberated. When Col Munro was appointed as the Diwan of Travancore, the lower castes were given right to wear certain dresses which had been prohibited to them till then. However they went beyond what was allowed. This created terrible social issues that the Sudras (Nayars) tried to block them on the streets. There were literally street fights between the Sudras and the lower castes.

What actually happened in the Travancore kingdom can be taken from the Travancore kingdom’s own Manual, the Travancore State Manual, written by V Nagam Aiya.


1. In 1833 A.D., there was a disturbance raised by the Shanars of South Travancore, but the riot was easily put down without military aid.

2. Shanar converts and Hindus — Disturbances in South Travancore. Reference has already been made to the establishment of the London Mission Society in South Travancore and the great toleration afforded to the Christian Missions by the Travancore Government that led to the rapid spread of Christianity in Nanjanad.

3. The result was that the Shanar converts (it may be observed here that the Mission work of conversion was mostly if not exclusively confined to the Shanars, Pariahs and other lowcaste people), who were looked down upon by the high-caste Hindus, relying on the support of the missionaries, caused great annoyance to them.

4. The casus belli in this case arose from the Shanar Christian females assuming the costume of high-caste women. By longstanding custom, the inferior classes of the population were forbidden to wear an upper cloth of the kind used by the higher classes.

5. During the administration of Col. Munro, a Circular order was issued permitting the women referred to, to cover their bodies with jackets (kuppayam) like the women of Syrian Christians, Moplas, and such others, but the Native Christian females would not have anything less than the apparel of the highest castes. So they took the liberty of appearing in public not only with the kuppayam already sanctioned, but with an additional cloth or scarf over the shoulders as worn by the women of the higher castes. These pretensions of the Shanar-convert women were resented by the high-caste Nayars and other Sudras who took the law into their own hands and used violence to those who infringed long-standing custom and caste distincti