This study of the Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana Yogam (SNDP Yogam), one of the earliest social reform movements in Kerala, investigates the relationship of social reform, religion, and caste. The Yogam drew inspiration from the ideas of Narayana Guru, which suited the aspirations of... the upwardly mobile Ezhava middle class, who were the main benefactors of the movement. In both religious and social matters, the Guru was a traditionalist who strove to create a modern outlook among the masses. He conceived of the temple as a social space where everybody could meet and exchange ideas. While pursuing his spiritual mission, he advocated education, industrialization, and abolition of caste as necessary prerequisites for social regeneration. This work demonstrates that the SNDP was an organization of an emerging Ezhava middle class, which worked as both its strength and weakness. It focused on such issues as education, employment in government service, industrialization, abolition of cyclical rituals and caste, anti-alcoholism and the demand for a new law of inheritance. However, some disjunction between principles and practice led to the decline of the SNDP movement.Ironically, since the movement was largely focused on the interests of the privileged section of the Ezhava community, it achieved Ezhava solidarity only around caste. This study is a significant example of how a social reform movement turned into a caste solidarity movement.
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