100 years after anti-caste satyagraha, caste is colour-coded at Vaikom temple
On the fourth day of the 12-day Ashtami festival at Kerala’s Vaikom Mahadeva Temple, what appeared as a typical temple celebration took a surprising turn. On November 28, 2023, a procession of four groups of women, each distinguished by the colours of their blouses – red, yellow, blue, and orange – made an entrance through the west door, accompanied by the resonant beats of chenda melam. These colours were not merely for aesthetics; they symbolised caste distinctions, raising eyebrows at the continuation of such practices in a Kerala temple under the supposedly progressive Travancore Devaswom Board. It surprised many, particularly considering Vaikom's historical significance as the site of the Vaikom Satyagraha, a non-violent movement fighting for access to Dalits and other lowered castes to the roads around the Vaikom temple in the erstwhile Travancore kingdom.