Caste system in Kerala, Untouchability, Hindu reforms, Varna
He was born Kali on 28 August 1863 to Ayyan and Mala of Venganoor village, 13 KM North of Thiru-vanantha-puram, in Travancore. (Today’s Kerala was formed by combining Southern Travancore, central Kochi and northern Malabar) Later he came to be called Ayyankali. He was one of the seven children of Ayyan of Pulaya caste (agricultural labour).
Ayyan had a benevolent landlord in Govinda Pillai. The landlord cleared jungles to make fields with the help of Ayyan. Later he gifted a small plot to Ayyan. Land owned by a Pulayan created unease among the landed.
Ayyankali grew up to be a tall, well built and handsome young man. He was known for his physical prowess and proficiency in martial arts. He was playing football with children of his age when the ball kicked by Ayyankali fell on the roof of a Nair house. The Nair warned him not to play with upper caste young men.
He took oath never to play with them. He went into a period of deep thought. He came out of a month of contemplation, a la Buddha, with a secret agenda – civil liberties for the untouchables.
(In1888 Ayyankali got married to an ebony coloured beauty Chellamma. He had seven children. The only daughter Thankamma was later married to TT Keshavan Sasthri, speaker of Kerala Assembly.)