Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam is organisation formed to propagate and promote the moral teaching and Dharma of Shree Narayana Guru. Dr. P. Palpu, a devotee of Sree Narayana, was one of the founder. According to the biography of Narayana Guru written by Moorkoth Kumaran, the organization was registered on 15 May, 1903 under Travancore Regulation 1 of 1063 (Indian Company Act IV 1882). Sree Narayana Guru was the Patron and life time President of the Yogam. Mahakavi Sri. Kumaranasan was the first General Secretary. Kumaran Asan was the peerless pioneer among modern Malayalam poets. He was one of the dedicated disciples of Sree Narayana Guru. In fact the spiritual philosophy and the battle against caste that illumine Kumaran Asan’s poetry were inspired mainly by association with and inspiration from the great Guru.
The Guru objected to the definition of the word 'community' (samudayam) that was given in the constitution. It was limited to those communities known as Ezhava, Thiya, Billava . He wanted it to be changed into the community of the human family. His follower's thought it was not pragmatically feasible to have such a global basis for their organization. When he saw that they were not prepared to have such a wide vision, after cautioning them of how it would adversely affect their purpose he agreed to give his blessings, probably with the hope that some day they would realize the narrowness of their tribalistic affinity. The Guru wanted the Yogam to function as the vanguard of his 'Liberation Movement'. But the leadership of the Yogam could not rise up to the expectation of the Guru. It could function only in a caste organization. Hence, in 1916, the Guru sent his resignation letter to Dr. P. Palpu. The Guru attributed 'caste pride' to the leaders of the Yogam and declared that he belonged to no caste non-religious.
General Secretary SNDP YOGAM
Vellapally Natesan is an asset to the community he guides. Through his enduring efforts he created a conducive atmosphere to the social tranquillity and it was not a contrivance. His moral standards of honour, allegiance to duty and truthfulness are well-known.
Vellapally is the son of Kesavan and Devaki who belong to the reputed family of Vellapally in Kanichukulangara. The family has been closely linked with the industrial sector in Kanichukulangara where coir factories predominantly occupy as mainstay of the economy.
He is a devout man to his family. His children can rarely recall him discussing politics at home. Vandana, Tushar and wife Preethi are the members of his family.
The main objectives of the organisation are:
• Introduce Shri Narayana devotees to each other and spread teachings of Shri Narayana Guru
• Help socially and economically weak in education
• Work in cooperation with other organizations for the betterment of all.
• Educate members about all religions.
• Establish a Temple and a School.
• Provide financial help to victims of disasters.
The Yogam engaged itself in the laudable efforts of eradicating untouchability and voicing the fundamental human rights of the working class. These efforts actually paved the way for many of Guru's followers to accept later the Marxist interpretation of socialism as their most acceptable ideal. Under the aegis of Dr. Palpu, Kumaran Asan, T. K. Madhavan, C.V. Kunjuraman, Moolur Padmanabha Panickar and others, several drastic changes were brought about in the social structure and texture of the Kerala community The role that Narayana Guru played was only of a catalyst and not as a fighter in the front lines. To others he set an example by his own personal life. His high dignity and sense of oneness with mankind did not allow him to give vent to anger or protestation against any particular person or community. He believed that there was only one caste for man and that was humanity. In this attitude he was uncompromising.This organisation has done invaluable service in the epic struggle against caste system in Kerala.
SNDP's follows Guru's social activities and its work is based the famous Quote of Guru:
“ Without differences of caste,
Nor enmities of creed',
Here it is, the model of an abode,
Where all live like brothers at heart ”
SNDP Yogam has been divided into 3 formation and they are
• Yogam (Top Level Body)
• Union (Middle Level)
• Sakhas (Lower level)
It is head-quartered in Kollam, Kerala.
Schools and Colleges
SNDP founded schools and colleges in the independent India. Previously the only private colleges were those managed by the Church. The movement started with SN College, Kollam and continued to late 70s. Great leaders like R. Sankar had the vision for future. According to M.A.John (idealist Congress leader), R. Sankar was the best Chief Minister kerala had and R. Sankar ministry laid the foundation for long term progress in Kerala - in the form of educational institutions and industries.
A Multicaste Organization
Though SNDP Yogam is mainly managed by Ezhava community, there is nothing in the bye-laws stopping other castes or religions into the body. As had been the case, many social reformers of other 'castes' were close friends or associates of SNDP Yogam. This include notable names like Mannathu Padmanabhan (founder of Nair Service Society), V.T.Bhattathiripad, M.C.Joseph(Rationalist) and in recent times Singer Yesudas and P.A.Backer who produced the movie on Sree Narayana Guru. Both Mannam and Marxist leader A.K.Gopalan were influenced by Guru and shed their caste endings from their names.
R.Shanker and S.N.D.P.Yogam
R. Sankar was a social reformer, Politician and one of the towering figures in Kerala politics with his courageous and inimitable style of functioning, Sree R Sankar became the third Chief Minister of Kerala during one of the most turbulent periods in the State’s political history. Sree Sankar was born in the village of Kuzhikkalidavaka near puthoor in Kottarakkara Taluk on April 30, 1909 as the fifth son of Sree Raman and Smt Kunchali Amma. Though born in a large family and despite the not so favorable conditions, he was fortunate enough to get good education. Sree. Sankar’s formal education began in the Puthoor Primary School and later continued in the English School, Kottarakkara.
Having started public life as a teacher and lawyer, he was drawn to politics with the birth of the Indian National Congress in State. The end of the Nivarthana agitation and the gradual growth of the State Congress accelerated Sankar’s rise as a political leader. He participated in the freedom struggle and was arrested and put in jail. After India’s independence he focused his attention on strengthening the Congress party.
Later, taking a break from the Congress party, he began to work in the SNDP Yogam. His work during this period served a great deal to bring backward class communities into the fold of the Congress party. During his long association with the SNDP Yogam of over 13 years, he served the Yogam as its General Secretary, President and Chief of the SN Trust. Under his leadership the SNDP Yogam gave emphasis to the field of education and started many educational institutions. Sree Sankar returned to the State Congress at a crucial juncture, when it was going through one of its worst periods. His organizing skills and leadership qualities became evident in the election held after independence. He was elected to the Travancore Assembly in 1948.
He also became a member of the Travancore-Cochin Assembly from 1949 to 1956. Sree. Sankar was a member of the Constituent Assembly and also a member of the Franchise and Delimitation Commission and the Reforms Committee constituted after the introduction of the Responsible Government. He led the Congress party as KPCC President during the Vimochana Samaram(Liberation Struggle). The Congress won the elections in 1960 under Sree. Sankar’s leadership and he became the Deputy Chief Minister in the Pattom Thanupillai ministry. He handled Finance portfolio from 1960 to 1962. When Sree Pattom Thanupillai was appointed as Governor, Sree Sankar became the Chief Minister of Kerala from September 26, 1962 to September 10, 1964.
Sree R Sankar was an able administrator and statesman. His track record as the Chief Minister of Kerala is ample proof of his administrative skills. He brought about many economic reforms while handling the finance portfolio. He served as the Chairman of the Committee of Privileges from 1960 to 1964. He was also the editor of a newspaper called Dinamony. His wife was Smt Lekshmikutty Amma and they have one son and one daughter.Sree Sankar died at the age of 63 on November 6, 1972. The Assembly paid its homage to him on November 13, 1972.
R.Shanker Birth Centenary celebrations
Growth and Achievement of SNDP
Within a decade of its inception, the SNDP attained incredible success, and then onwards, it had been steadily growing adapting itself to suit the changing socio-political conditions and consequent needs of the people.
Under the leadership of Mahakavi Kumaran Asan, and Dr. Palpu, the Yogam raised its voice of protest against the denial of civic and human rights to Avarnas. The Yogam was in the vanguard of the fight for the rights of the depressed classes, especially the non- caste Hindus. But the voice of protest was mainly through representations to rulers and Government, newspaper writings and pamphlets, etc.
The SNDP first fought for the admission of Avarna children to Govt. schools and won. With this success, the number of educationally qualified youth in the community increased. The Christian missionary institutions also contributed to this increase. But employment in Government was still out of reach for them. The Christians could get into Govt. service through the influence of the British, but the Ezhavas were kept out. After repeated representations, a great favor was granted that the Ezhavas could be employed in the lower ranks in departments other than Revenue. (The Revenue Department could not take the Ezhavas because it was dealing with Temple Administration and the Ezhavas being Avarnas were not supposed to touch those papers!) When the Avarnas applied for Government jobs, they were either asked by the Savarna officials to take up their traditional profession, or their applications were summarily rejected saying that there were no vacancies. The SNDP took up the issue. Protests against the princely rulers and caste Hindu officials gradually became an integral part of India's national movement, and the SNDP developed a high political stock.
The SNDP entered its second phase when T. K. Madhavan took over as its organizing secretary. He was a firebrand and a committed nationalist. Madhavan brought in a tremendous increase in the membership of the SNDP within a short period. He also took up issues which caused the Yogam to adopt methods of agitation
The first important issue was to fight for the Avarnas' right to use public roads around the temples which resulted in the famous Vaikkom Satyagraha, and later led to the Temple Entry Proclamation by the Maharaja of Travancore. It is to be noticed that Travancore was the first princely state in India to take this progressive step. "Removal of untouchability is an abstract idea. Temple entry is a concrete representative action of the abstract idea." - Mahatma Gandhi.
The second issue was the Anti-Liquor agitation. Long before Gandhi included prohibition in the national campaign, the Guru had declared, 'Liquor is poison, do not make it, do not give it, do not drink it.' In the 18th Annual meeting of the SNDP, a resolution was passed to urge the community (toddy-tappers) to wind up liquor business. No longer were peaceful protests registered. The Yogam adopted agitational methods like picketing the toddy and arrack shops, with T. K. Madhavan and C. Keshavan at its helm. Though it was sabotaged from within by vested interests, the agitation had its effect. The SNDP Yogam and its organized might came to be accepted as an undefeatable social force.
Both these activities, the Vaikkom Satyagraha and the Anti-Liquor agitation helped to integrate the SNDP's activities with the National Movement. The members of the SNDP en masse joined the Indian National Congress. With this, it got inextricably involved in political activities.
All these programs had emphasis on safeguarding and ensuring the civic rights and human status of the Ezhava community. This was bound to happen as the leadership of the SNDP was always vested in capable Ezhava men. It was the Ezhavas who listened to the Guru first, joined and swelled up the ranks of the SNDP. They were the standard bearers in the march of progress and naturally they were the beneficiaries too.
With this trend, the Guru had a feeling that the SNDP was sacrificing universalism and degenerating into an Ezhava organization, and ignoring the spiritual and moral well-being of the people at large. Just before his Samadhi (demise), the Guru tried to correct this trend. He sent the following message to a special meeting of the SNDP at Sivagiri:
No group can gain strength and achieve prosperity by any means other than organized effort. It was on this principle that the Yogam was established twenty five years ago. The term Ezhava does not denote caste or religion. Therefore anyone can be made a member of the Yogam. I wish many more joined.'
The Guru took another bold step. He established an Order of Monks (Dharma Sangham) at Sivagiri to maintain his spiritual legacy. Through his Will and Testament, he bequeathed all his property to the Dharma Sangham and issued directives and guidelines.
The future role of Sivagiri Mutt was:
1. To enlighten the people about the fundamentals of religion and spread everywhere devotion and love of God.
2. To help the people to attain the three-fold purity — that of body, mind and word.
3. To teach the people the grandeur of nonviolence, love and unity, and see that they are observed in action.
4. To improve the educational level of the common people.
5. To identify the right type of men to be trained as inmates and send them out as messengers of Love to serve the people.
His intention was to transform Sivagiri into the intellectual Sringeri of the South. Sivagiri Mutt enjoyed the right to train young men as priests and depute them to all temples consecrated by the Guru.
Soon after the Guru's Samadhi (demise), another offshoot of Sivagiri Mutt, named Narayana Gurukulam, was established by Nataraja Guru, Dr. Palpu's son and an intimate disciple of the Guru. The Gurukulam, took up the role of interpreting the Guru's philosophy in relation to advanced western thoughts. The East-West University is a special institution sponsored by the Gurukulam.
After this division of objectives, the SNDP entered its third phase, with another firebrand, the future Chief Minister C. Keshavan, as its Secretary. A lawyer by profession, a Gandhian and nationalist by conviction, and molded in the forge of the Guru's Dharma, this fearless agitator inaugurated a new era in the political heritage of the SNDP. He transformed the SNDP into a fighting organization with the Abstention Movement, and the struggle for proportionate representation of Ezhavas in the legislature of Travancore State. In Travancore State, only those who paid Rs. 5 or more as land tax had the right to vote. The Nairs and upper castes were the landed gentry with voting rights, and most of the Ezhavas and other Avarnas were the landless poor without voting rights. So there was no chance of an Ezhava getting elected to the Legislative Assembly, though they were equal to the Nairs in number. The same was the case with the Christians and the Muslims. So the SNDP joined hands with Muslims and Christians and decided to boycott the elections of 1931. This is known as Abstention Movement. The Abstention Movement was a great success, as the Government agreed to nominate representatives, proportionate to the population, to the Legislative Assembly.
The post-Independence scene was quite different. As the Yogam had been deeply immersed in struggles for civic rights, the area of educational advance was not particularly taken care of for a few years. At this stage, R. Shankar took over as General Secretary. Shankar represented the younger generation molded by the Guru's dynamic influence. By sheer integrity and merit Shankar managed to become the State Congress head and Chief Minister of Kerala for a few years. As Secretary of the SNDP, Shankar saw that the Ezhavas had progressed socially and economically, but the SNDP did not have institutions of higher education. So Shankar concentrated his efforts on education. He raised an educational fund of Rs. 1 lakh within 24 hours, and started the Sree Narayana College at Quilon. This has become one of the leading post- graduate study centers of Kerala. The SNDP celebrated its golden jubilee at the SN College Grounds. The most important contribution of R. Shankar was the formation of the SN Trust which now runs a chain of colleges, polytechnics, Teacher Training Institutions, well-equipped hospitals and Nurses' Training schools. The growth in the educational field was temporarily arrested by the sudden demise of Shankar.
The SNDP started basically as an organization of the toiling millions. By and by, its leadership went to the rising bourgeoisie of the community. In spite of that, it continues to be dedicated to the cause of the poor. Though there is difference of opinion, many of the socialist and communist leaders of Kerala had their early apprenticeship in the SNDP and its activities. The reason for Kerala becoming a haven for progressive views and ideals can be traced to the influence of the messages and mission of Sree Narayana Guru.