MANOHAR PUBLISHERS AND DISTRIBUTORS
|Number of Pages||419 Pages|
This book tells the story of how a longstanding matrilineal society, in which women provided the reference point for the control of property, began to crumble in the late nineteenth century, eaten away by the demands of a modernized state and ridiculed by foreign missionaries and Hindu critics from elsewhere.
When the book begins in 1847, high-caste families, mostly Nairs, still held slaves, controlled most of the land in the southern princely state of Travancore and demanded humiliating deference from lower castes. When the book ends at the time of the First World War, land and wealth seem to be passing into the hands of Christians and lower castes, the latter are protesting against social discrimination and Nair critics are calling for reforms of matrilineal practices and even for the abolition of matriliny itself.
The book introduces intriguing characters, among them the longtime British Resident, General William Cullen, ‘ruin of many ladies of caste and respectability’, according to disapproving missionaries; the brilliant Travancore Minister, Sir T. Madhava Rao; social reformers like P. Thanu Pillai; Father Emmanuel Nidhiry who challenged European bishops; the courageous Dr P. Palpu, who struggled for opportunities for lower castes; the poet and activist N. Kumaran Asan; and the redoubtable Mannath Padmanabhan, founder of the Nair Service Society.
Anyone who has walked the streets of Trivandrum, or pondered the remarkable social achievements of ‘the Kerala model of development’, will find in this book a vivid evocation of a time in history and an essential foundation for their understanding of ‘God’s own country’.