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January 16, 2011




Page: 17/45

Home > 2011 Issues > January 16, 2011

He organised Hindus. Fought for Hindu rights
By VN Gopalakrishnan

Under the leadership of Shri Mannathu Padmanabhan, the founder members of NSS took an oath that "I will incessantly think and make efforts for the progress of the Nair community. But in those efforts will do nothing to provocate the other communities."

MANNATHU Padma-nabhan, popularly known as Mannam is the peerless leader of the Nair community. He was a great social reformer, a freedom fighter, an effective organiser, besides a great visionary of our times. Mannam’s unflinching determination, unwavering singleness of purpose and great ability in man management made him a supreme leader. He has discarded his title ‘Pillai’ in order to overcome caste prejudice. He has been conferred the title ‘Bharat Kesari’ after the historic liberation struggle in 1959 which led to the dismissal of the Communist ministry in Kerala. He was conferred Padmabhushan in 1966 and a Commemorative postal stamp was released on January 2, 1989. His birthday is celebrated by the Nair community on Janunary 2.

Born in 1878 at Perunna in Kerala, he was brought up in the midst of difficulties of a middle-class Nair family. His family conditions and domestic responsibilities compelled him to take up the job of a teacher and later opted to become a Vakil. He relinquished the profession only for the upliftment of the Nair community. His interest to serve his community prompted him and other stalwarts of the time to establish the Nair Service Society (NSS) on October 31, 1914. In his own words, " NSS is my god, goddess and everything that there can be."

NSS is a synonym for selfless service and social commitment. It came into being at a crucial stage in the history of the Nair community which was facing a crisis brought about by disunity and blind adherence to outmoded customs, beliefs and practices. They had a glorious past but ignorance, accumulated over centuries, reinforced by inadequate education, proved disastrous for the community. Their predilection for celebrations and penchant for ceremonial occasions fuelled by a strong affinity towards profligacy and extravaganza, contributed to their decline and downfall. Gradual loss of land holdings, under-employment and unemployment due to lack of modern education completed the process of disintegration.

Mannam inspired the Nair community and gave a dream of liberation from poverty, misery and ignorance. Thousands of units of the NSS have been created in his own unique way, with persistence, vision and farsightedness. The NSS opened an array of educational institutions, hospitals and other socially beneficial institutions all over the state. Though initially started to reorganise, strengthen and empower the Nair community, the NSS has extended the benefits of its service beyond communal and religious boundaries and has been playing significant roles in the social, economic, educational and political transformation of the state. The biography of Shri Mannathu Padmanabhan refers to the luxurious way of life of the Nairs which made them lazy. Almost all the families were descending at a great speed towards the bottom level without any family leadership due to superstitious beliefs, extravagant celebrations and matrilineal hierarchy. The community had to spend family fortunes on these customs and traditions!

Under the leadership of Shri Mannathu Padmanabhan, the founder members of NSS, took an oath that "I will incessantly think and make efforts for the progress of the Nair community. But in those efforts will do nothing to provocate the other communities." Shri Mannathu Padmanabhan and his colleagues gave more attention to work against the social evils and to create awareness among the community members. They organised gatherings called Nair Sammelanams throughout Kerala. They put their first step in the field of education with a view to remove the backwardness existed among the Nair population and to provide them with better facilities. At the beginning, schools were established followed by colleges. Agriculture, industry, housing and healthcare activities were taken up subsequently. Acquisition of landed properties, establishment of agricultural farms, hospitals etc. were taken up in due course.

With an amazing network of units at the village (Karayogams) and Taluka levels (Taluk Unions), the NSS has evolved into a well-knit and coherent organisation that has never severed from the noble ideals and high principles of its founder. The NSS with its head Office in Changanacherry, Kerala runs over hundred schools, 15 arts and science colleges, 3 training colleges, one Engineering college, one Homeo Medical College, several Nursing Colleges, Polytechnic college, TTC Schools, Working Women Hostels and Technical institutions throughout the length and breadth of Kerala.

Shri Mannathu Padmanabhan firmly believed that serving the people of his community and serving the country are not different. Hence the organisation is committed to his ideas and the new leadership of the community is determined to follow the footsteps of its founder members. The NSS has always looked upon the harmony among religions and communities as a fundamental factor for their own development as well as for the development of the nation at large.

(The author is a freelance journalist and a social activist. He is the Director of Indo-Gulf Consulting and can be contacted at telegulf@gmail.com).




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