Vivekananda &c.

Palaniappa Palaniappa at AOL.COM
Tue Mar 24 16:32:11 UTC 1998

In my earlier posting, I forgot to mention a fact linking the Shanan�s
struggle for social rights and Vivekananda

N. Ganesan had earlier said:

<<It was Baskara Sethupathi of Ramnad who got the ticket for Vivekananda to
US, and upon Swami's triumphant return (we are told), Sethupathi, the Raja of
Ramnad, carried him around in a palanquin around Madras.>>

Vidyasankar Sundaresan has said:

<<As for Bhaskara Setupati of Ramnad, who financed V, he is a classic
example of the process of Sanskritization. He patronized many Hindu
religious institutions liberally. But the transformation from a kaLLar
(or is it maRavar?) chieftain to a proper kshatriya came with a huge
cost for him. He got into serious debt, mismanaged his estate, and was
almost totally impoverished when he died.>>

As part of the Shanan�s struggle for temple entry, "On May 14, 1897, fifteen
Shanans, despite the efforts of temple custodians to prevent them from doing
so, entered the Minakshi Sundareswara Temple at Kamudi and worshipped there.
The temple�s hereditary trustee, the Raja of Ramnad, Raja M. Bhaskara
Sethupathi, natural leader of the Maravan community and dedicated enemy of
Shanan "pretensions", brought suit against the offenders, asking that they
compensate the temple for the purification ceremonies undertaken after its
defilement and that it be established that neither by sacred law nor by custom
did Shanans have a right to enter the temple." (The Modernity of Tradition, p.

The case which went all the way to Privy Council was decided against the

"The court invoked Brahman written and edited law and the testimony of Brahman
witnesses concerning local custom to sustain its interpretation... In the
court�s judgment, birth, not achievement, defined social identity. Rights were
rooted in Brahmanically-defined custom and Brahmanically-edited sacred texts,
not in general ideas of treating equals equally or in "right reason."" (The
Modernity of Tradition, p. 42-43)

One can see how the Hindu Shanans indirectly aided by the Christian
Missionaries through Christian Shanans tried to advance the cause of Shanans
as a whole. Sanskritized Raja of Ramnad in whose region of influence the
Shanans were living fought to suppress the Shanan aspirations. He also gave
money to Vivekananda (who disliked Christian Missionaries) who used it go to
USA and proclaim the glory of Hinduism. He also called Kerala a lunatic asylum
apparently due to extreme caste inequities there. But he accepted money from
Raja of Ramnad who was trying to perpetuate caste inequities against those who
had also fought against caste inequities in Kerala. Interesting, is it not?


S. Palaniappan

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