Dr Padmanabhan Palpu (1836-1950), a much-revered physician and social reformer from Kerala, was almost denied an training and vocation due to the circumstances of his beginning.
Born into the Ezhava neighborhood, which lies close to the underside of the Indian caste system, the one avenues open to him had been the “conventional occupations” of toddy tapping and farming. Unwilling to succumb to the present social order within the erstwhile princely state of Travancore (Kerala), nevertheless, he sought to be a physician exterior his house province.
Dr Palpu wouldn’t solely play a pivotal position in successfully containing the 1898-99 plague in Bangalore (recognized at present as Bengaluru) and establishing the well-known Victoria Hospital within the metropolis, but in addition standing alongside social reformer Sree Narayana Guru and Malayalee poet Kumaran Asan as pioneers of the battle towards the pernicious caste system in Travancore.
They based an organisation known as Sree Narayana Dharma Paripalana (SNDP) Yogam, which later grew to become the beacon for a lot of social reformation actions in Kerala. It was a outstanding life devoted to serving the sick, uplifting his neighborhood and difficult the caste system.
Overcoming the obstacles of caste system
Born to Bhagavathy Padmanabhan and Matha Perumal at Pettah, Trivandrum on 2 November 1863, Palpu earned his matriculation in 1883. Regardless of rating second within the all-Travancore medical entrance check, his software to medical faculty was rejected due to his caste.
“In these days, the upper castes shunned the decrease castes as a result of they believed that contact or strategy and even sight of the latter inside a sure distance brought on air pollution to them. This state of affairs led to systemic and common endeavours to forestall them from getting into roads, faculties, places of work and different public locations,” wrote scholar TP Sanakarankutty Nair in a 1979 article printed within the Proceedings of the Indian Historical past Congress.
“At the same time as a pupil, Palpu was decided to eradicate these social evils, however Kerala society at the moment occurred to be an Augean steady. In 1885 Palpu joined Madras Medical School and in 1889 he was awarded the Licentiate diploma in Medication and Surgical procedure (LMS),” added Nair.
Whereas his father struggled to make ends meet, his mom offered her jewelry to ship her son to Madras. Following his research, he utilized for a job in Travancore’s medical division, however was denied but once more due to his caste. As a substitute, he utilized for a job within the Madras medical service earlier than shifting to the extra progressive Mysore medical service in November 1891.
The truth is, based on this disturbing excerpt printed in Social Mobility in Kerala, “Visiting Travancore as a certified medical physician, he went to the place and pleaded to be permitted to return to his house state and serve the Rajah. The Rajah’s response was (in some variations) to supply Palpu a patch of land with coconut timber on it, and the promise that he may faucet todde from them tax-free. In different variations, the haughty Rajah first tells Palpu, ‘Sure, you may serve. Right here there’s loads of work so that you can do,’ earlier than having him taken exterior, proven the coconut timber within the royal compound and instructed, ‘There’s loads of timber so that you can climb’.”
After gaining employment in Mysore province, he would spend the subsequent 30 years in service until his retirement in 1920. All through this era, he held onto essential posts like “Well being officer, Bangalore, PA to sanitary commissioner, deputy commissioner, central jail superintendent, and many others,” famous Nair. “His tenure of workplace because the Mysore plague camp superintendent, even on the threat of his personal life, received him appreciation from all quarters together with the Surgeon Common and Sanitary Commissioner of the Authorities of India.”
For a short yr in 1917-18, he additionally labored as sanitary advisor to the Baroda Authorities. However along with his official duties in Mysore, Dr Palpu strove to vastly enhance the situations of the Ezhava neighborhood alongside different like-minded reformers.
Containing the plague
Dr Palpu started his tenure in service of Mysore province because the superintendent of the newly established Vaccine Institute in Bengaluru. Impressed by his work and capabilities, Palpu was given the duty of operating St Martha’s Hospital and the Lunatic and Leper Asylums.
When the plague struck Bengaluru in August 1898, he was appointed “superintendent of the plague camps within the metropolis”, based on Meera Iyer, the creator of Discovering Bengaluru, in a column for the Deccan Herald.
Dr Paplu was answerable for operating “segregation camps for contaminated individuals, contact camps and well being camps for his or her kin,” notes Iyer. Moreover his empathy, compassion and selflessness, what additionally stood out was his braveness. He stood tall within the face of catastrophe whilst different senior docs withdrew from the scene fearing dying.
In accordance with Iyer, “Palpu’s duties took him on surveys of plague-affected areas the place he investigated residing situations. To try to limit the unfold of plague, he used to personally meet relations of contaminated individuals to persuade them to take away themselves to contact camps. This was performed ‘with sympathetic and protracted recommendation’ and with ‘repeated preaching and persuasion,’ as he put it, which took loads of time, generally requiring visits over two or three days throughout which he would clarify the risks of an infection to them and it often labored.”
In 1899, because the plague started to subside, he was despatched by the Mysore authorities to Cambridge College, the place he studied bacteriology, serum remedy and tropical medication. Palpu would come again to India with a Diploma in Public Well being. Upon his return in 1900, Lt Col PH Benson, the then senior surgeon and sanitary commissioner within the Mysore administration, advisable that he needs to be appointed as well being officer for Bengaluru metropolis.
Palpu served within the Mysore authorities till 1920. He additionally grew to become a Fellow of the Royal Institute of Public Well being and a member of the British Medical Affiliation.
Never-ending service to his trigger
Regardless of the calls for of his work in Mysore province, he by no means stopped working in direction of the upliftment of the Ezhava and different downtrodden caste communities.
In accordance with Dr Ajay S Sekher, in an article printed within the Ahead Press, “[Dr Palpu] joined arms with Barrister GP Pillai and TM Nair of the Justice Social gathering and collaborated within the first mass petition for illustration and inclusion of non-Brahman natives of Travancore in public companies, known as the Malayali Memorial in 1891. He supplied monetary help to the marketing campaign and was its third signatory. However the Malayali Memorial turned out to be a marketing campaign for Nair illustration. They obtained ample entry into the service and their radicalism ended there.”
“[However] The Avarnas, together with the Ezhavas, weren’t given any share in energy. Due to this fact, Dr Palpu initiated a second memorial in Kerala for the illustration of his personal neighborhood in public companies, signed by greater than 13,000 main tax payers from the neighborhood, which grew to become the bedrock of democracy in Kerala known as the Ezhava Memorial in 1896,” he provides.
The Ezhava Memorial submitted to Diwan Shungara Soobbiyer of Travancore province primarily highlighted how Ezhavas in Travancore had been denied entry to authorities faculties and public sector jobs. “This mass petition to the regime by the outcastes of Kerala for the primary time in trendy historical past is usually hailed because the Magna Carta of Kerala because it was the primary subaltern sociopolitical motion and mobilisation for illustration and inclusion in a contemporary democratic society in Kerala,” claims Dr Sekhar.
The 1896 memorial attracted loads of media consideration. To additional spotlight the caste drawback, he even despatched barrister GP Pillai to the UK and succeeded in presenting the grievance of the Ezhavas within the British parliament. In 1900, one other petition was delivered to Lord Curzon, however none of those initiatives resulted in any quick materials outcomes.
Dr Palpu would additionally go on to affiliate with radical social reformer Sree Narayana Guru on the recommendation of famed Indian saint Swami Vivekananda. In accordance with Dr Krishnakumar A, in an article printed within the Paideuma Journal of Analysis, “Swami Vivekananda suggested him to affiliate with some non secular particular person on this effort to battle for the rights of the Ezhavas.”
Dr Palpu (as vp) would set up the SNDP Yogam in 1903 with Narayana Guru at its helm, together with poet Kumaran Asan as secretary. The organisation was ostensibly began to information the social, academic, financial and non secular development of the Ezhava neighborhood, however it could later go on to accommodate different ‘backward’ caste communities.
Quickly, branches of the SNDP Yogam started popping up throughout Kerala. “Underneath Palpu’s patronage, and energetic organising talents, Yogam grew to become a robust mass motion. His intention in organising the Yogam was by and huge social and political to battle towards the ruling authority for the continual denial of civic and human rights,” notes Krishnakumar.
Nonetheless, through the years, divisions started to develop inside the Yogam and the unique founders had been pushed to the margins. In 1928, Narayana Guru criticised the organisation for not together with different low caste communities in Kerala. Within the following yr, Palpu too criticised the organisation he helped set up by accusing it of catering to sure vested pursuits. He finally handed away in 1950, however not earlier than abandoning an indelible impression on future generations.
In the present day, Kerala has a chief minister (Pinarayi Vijayan) from the Ezhava neighborhood. Greater than a 100 years in the past, the very considered having an individual from such a neighborhood operating the very best political workplace within the state would have been shut down.
(Edited by Divya Sethu)
Dr. Palpu—The Pioneer of Ezhava Social Reformer of Kerala (1863-1950) by TP Sanakarankutty Nair, Printed in Proceedings of the Indian Historical past Congress, Vol. 40 (1979)
Dr Palpu: The Pioneer of Ezhava Social Reformer by Dr Krishnakumar A, Printed courtesy Paideuma Journal of Analysis
Palpu: A physician, activist who fought the plague and the caste system by Meera Iyer; Printed on 23 August 2020 courtesy Deccan Herald
Dr Palpu – who countered plague and caste alike by Dr. Ajay S Sekher, Printed on 8 December 2020 courtesy Ahead Press