Kerala Plus Two History Notes Chapter 15 Kerala: Towards Modernity (Economy, Society, and Polity)
In this chapter, we discuss the factors that led Kerala to modernity. The most important factor for the modernization of Kerala is the colonial intervention. Colonialism brought changes in the existing landowning system and system of laws. All this resulted in the development of the estate (plantation) economy, capital, investment, deposits, growth of new industries, and growth in travel and communication. This era witnessed the beginning of missionary education, the publication of dictionaries, the start of public education, the ban on slavery, movements for a democratic society, and the resistance to colonialism.
The national movements under the leadership of the Indian National Congress and Praja Mandal and the agricultural protests against feudal, colonial exploitation resulted in the formation of Kerala State. The 19th and 20th century Social Reform Movements and the formation of Malayali identity played a big role in leading Kerala to modernity. All these are stressed in this chapter.
In the first part of the 19th century, there was administrative stability in all three regions of Kerala. Western influence was most felt during this period. This influence positively helped in paving the base for modem Kerala. There were many reforms in the society initiated by the British as well as the rulers of Travancore and Kochi. Of course, behind the reforms brought by the British, there were colonial interests. Most of these reforms were brought with the intention of solidifying British rule in India. But they did bring changes in the attitude of Keralites and the circumstances prevailing here.
As the British established their authority here in Kerala, there were also strong resistance movements against them. Regional leaders and the people rose in revolt against British dominance. Pazhassiraja, Kurichiar, the Mappila farmers of Malabar, Veluthambi Dalava, Paliathachan, etc. were the leaders of these protests.
In the 19th century Kerala, there were many superstitions, evil practices, and social inequalities. The repressive administration by the feudal lords and the dominance by upper-caste Hindus made the life of the backward communities very painful and unbearable. Society had a lot of illegal and illogical practices in relation to menstruation, pregnancy, and death.
Many social evils and controls based on Caste existed in Kerala. Some sections of the society were denied even their essential fundamental rights. Human dignity did not mean anything to some people. Certain civil rights movements came up against such injustice. Some of them were very important.
The State Re-organization Committee under Sayyid Fasal Ali made the dream of a United Kerala a reality. The recommendation was to form Kerala State with Malabar, Kochi, and Travancore as its constituent regions. On 1 November 1956, Kerala officially became a reality.