Alappuzha: The life of Arattupuzha Velayuda Panicker (1825-1874), a social reformer who preceded Sree Narayana Guru, will be recreated on canvas by painter N. Balamurali Krishnan, hailing from Evoor near Kayamkulam. He plans to exhibit his portfolio titled 'Grasshoppers of Onattukara' in various cities in the country next year.
The first show will be held in Thiruvananthapuram in April next, he said.
Krishnan, 55, who has conducted at least 24 exhibitions, said that it was an attempt to portray the life and times of erstwhile Onattukara, near Kayamkulam, Alappuzha. Panicker had worked for the uplift of the oppressed community and questioned anti-human rituals and customs prevalent then.
"Panicker's life should be made part of curriculum and the department of archaeology should take steps to study his legacy and make the new generation aware of it. One of my ten paintings is on Kallissery house he had constructed," he added.
Panicker, who was born on January 7, 1825, to Perumal Chekor of the renowned Kallissery tharavad, lived in Mangalam village in Alappuzha district. He was the first person who stood up against feudalistic forces in Kayamkulam.
He led many legendary struggles for the rights of Ezhava women, including Mookuthi Vazhakku (nose ring brawl), Ethappu Samaram and Achipudava Samaram. He also built the first Siva temple for lower castes in Mangalam.
British anthropologists Filippo Osella and Caroline Osella portray him to be the forerunner of Sree Narayana Guru, who fought against the oppression of Ezhavas. He walked on the roads questioning the restrictions imposed on him due to his caste and called upon the oppressed to do the same. By providing clothes to lower caste women, he also breached the royal decree that they should not cover their breasts.
He established a brotherhood of untouchable socio-cultural activists in Arattupuzha and founded an art and cultural wing to stage performances like Kathakali that were forbidden for the Avarnas. Panicker established a troupe and school called Kaliyogam or Kalari for the training of young Avarnas in Kathakali. It produced many artists from the untouchable communities. There were furious complaints and protests from Sudras to ban it. But defying the Savarna conspiracy against the artistic pursuit of Avarnas, Panicker helped Avarnas in Changanassery and Kottayam to establish their own Kaliyogams in their localities.
Panicker organised peasants after an Ezhava woman from Kayamkulam was assaulted by upper caste men for wearing upper clothes. He accommodated farmers at his house and fed them. When the farmers refused to work on the landlords' fields, the upper castes called a truce, apologised to the woman and gave new dress to her. It was later known as 'Achipudava strike.'
Panicker also supported the most marginalized dalit communities by running night schools and kalaris for them. His institutions were open to all sections of society. He also built new new huts for them. Panickar was married to Velumbi at Varanappally near Kayamkulam at the age of 20. The couple had seven children and all of them were named 'Kunju' (the name used by only elites) in protest against upper castes.
It is said that he was stabbed to death by a group of upper caste goons while he was coming back from Kollam to Kayamkulam in a country boat on January 3, 1874....