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Caste Practices, ‘Lower-Castes’ and Minorities

Novels were written about the marriage practices of upper-caste Hindus in Kerala.

These novels influenced the views of the younger generation in Kerala. They wanted new laws regarding marriage and property.


Let us look at Chandu Menon’s Indulekha

Chandu Menon’ s Indulekha


Suri Nambuthiri, the foolish landlord who comes to marry Indulekha, is the focus of much satire in the novel.

The intelligent heroine rejects him and chooses Madhavan, the educated and handsome Nayar as her husband.

The young couple move to Madras, where Madhavan joins the civil service. Suri Nambuthiri, desperate to find a partner for himself, finally marries a poorer relation from the same family and goes away pretending that he has married Indulekha.

Chandu Menon wanted his readers to appreciate the new values of his hero and heroine and criticise the ignorance and immorality of Suri Nambuthiri.

Novels like Indirabai and Indulekha were written by members of the upper castes, and were primarily about upper-caste characters.

Potheri Kunjambu, a ‘lower-caste’ writer from north Kerala, wrote a novel called Saraswativijayam in 1892. this navel strongly attacks caste oppression. This novel shows a young man from an ‘untouchable’ caste, leaving his village to escape the cruelty of his Brahmin landlord. He converts to Christianity, obtains modern education, and returns as the judge in the local court. Saraswativijayam stresses the importance of education for the upliftment of the lower castes.


Advaita Malla Burman’s Titash Ekti Nadir Naam (1956) is an epic about the Mallas, a community of fisherfolk who earn a living by fishing in the river Titash. The novel is about three generations of the Mallas The novel describes the community life of the Mallas in great detail, their Holi and Kali Puja festivals, boat races, bhatiali songs, their friendship and animosity with the peasants and the oppression of the upper castes.

The medium of the novel made room for the experiences of communities that had not received much space in the literary scene earlier.

Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer was one of the early Muslim writers to gain wide renown as a novelist in Malayalam. Basheer had little formal education. Most of his works were based on his own rich personal experience rather than on books from the past. Basheer’s short novels and stories were written in the ordinary language of conversation and were full of humour. Basheer’s novels spoke about details from the everyday life of Muslim households. He also brought poverty, insanity and life in prisons into Malayalam writing.

Vaikkom Muhammad Basheer

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