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The Kerala Brahmo Samaj

Alok Ayathan

The Kerala Brahmosamaj was founded in 1893 by Rao Sahib Dr. Ayathan Gopalan. He joined the Brahmosamaj when he was a student of Madras Medical College (1884). He started his reform activities since his childhood. During his college days he read about Raja Ram Mohun Roy and was inspired by his the reform movements. He was greatly influenced by the faith and principles of Brahmosamaj and joined the Madras Brahmosamaj which was running successfully during those times, being the main centre of reform activities of South India.

Rao Sahib Dr. Ayathan Gopalan also travelled to various Brahmosamajes all over India and met with great personalities like Kesub Chandra Sen, Devendranath Tagore, Rabindranath Tagore, N.G.Chandavarkar, Justice Rande, R.G.Bhandarkar and many more and came to know more about the Brahmo Samaj movements. His first visited the birth place of Raja Ram Mohun Roy, the father of Modern India, and the pioneer in Brahmo Samaj movement and social reforms at Calcutta Brahmo Samaj. He was later nominated as the lifetime executive member of Sadaran Brahmo Samaj. He had great connections with Calcutta Brahmo Samajes, Prathana Samaj, Hyderabad Brahmo Samaj, Bangalore Brahmo Samaj, Mangalore Brahmo Samaj and Madras Brahmo Samajes till his death,

His close association with Prarthana Samaj and brotherly affection for  Shri N.G. Chandawarkar and his wife Lady Chandawarkar drew the Chandrawarkars to Calicut Brahmo Samaj where they stayed at the residence of Dr. Ayathan Gopalan. Dr.Gopalan by then had been known widely all over Kerala as a Social reformer and the follower of Brahmo Samaj. He was also the founder of Sugunavardhini movement in Kerala. While he was in conversation with N.G. Chandawarkar and Lady Chandawarkar he expressed his anguish at the despicable conditions of caste and racial discrimination that prevailed during those times. He was worried about the lack of education among girls and the downtrodden sections such as the Harijan and Dalit community. Hearing about Dr. Gopalans enthusiasm for educating women and the harijans, Lady Chandawarkar agreed to donate funds for establishing the school which was later named as the “Lady Chandawarkar Elementary school”. This school had been running successfully till the death of Dr.Gopalan’s son Ayathan Devadath (1906-1988) who was the last trustee after Dr. Gopalan.  Ayathan Devadath looked after the school to fulfill his father’s dream of providing education to girls and backward communities. He made the school one of the best in that part of the country. The school gained appreciation from all walks of life and was the first school which provided free education to Dalit and Harijan communities as well as for Girls, in Kerala. After Ayathan Devadath’s demise (1906-1988)  it was forced to shut down due to the drop in student roll-strength and establishment of new schools in the town.

Dr. Gopalan established the first Branch of Brahmo Samaj of Kerala at Calicut (The Calicut Brahmosamaj, Malabar) in the year 1898. Later on he established Brahmo Samajes at Alathur, Thalassery, Palakkad and also at Alappuzha. The Alappuzha Brahmo Samaj was established in the year 1924 . Out of  all these  Brahmo Samajes only Calicut and Alappuzha Brahmo Samaj exist today but without any activity. Earlier there had been many followers of tha Brahmo Samaj and it had made a strong impact on society, bringing about revolutionary changes in the social and cultural spheres in Kerala. Dr. Ayathan Gopalan is one of the Renaissance leaders of the reform movement in Kerala. The earliest members of the Brahmo Samaj included Karat Govinda Menon who was later on called “Brahmananda Swami” by Dr.Gopalan for writing a series of hymns called “Brahmasankeerthanam” to be sung during Brahmo prayer meetings. He was later widely known by this name as Brahmananda Swami Sivayogi. 

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