What GSBs lack and to do   Article by TGS Rao  

The backdrop - Rise of middle class - The present status - Grama sabha movement - The potential - What to do  - Who will bell the cat

The backdrop

The migration of GSBs to Kerala were mainly in two phases - in the 13th century (the exodus of 1294 AD) and subsequently in the 16th century (1560 AD). Their settlements were in pockets like Cochin, Alleppey, Kumbla etc., around the temples built on the land donated by the Kings of Cochin, Travancore and Kayankulam. The social life was inseperable from the temples and social exchanges with the locals was limited. Most of the GSB settlers in kerala were very poor. Only a few who migrated in the first phase (mainly traders in Cochin and Kasargod) were well off. They took control of the temples and the vast lands associated with it. The poor dispersed further in search of opportunities and doing petty business like pappad making. The GSBs thus belonged to 3 classes - the businessmen, the land lords and the poor.

Rise of middle class

In the early 20th century, the rich temple Devaswoms started schools near the temples at places like Cochin, Thuravoor, Alleppey etc. During and after the first world war, many GSBs doing petty business utilised the business  opportunities and made quick bucks. They realised the benefits of literacy and educated their children. Basically good in Mathematics and Commerce many of these children managed to get jobs as teachers, clerks and accountants. The founding of Canara Bank (in 1910) and the Syndicate Bank (in 1925) by GSBs of Mangalore and Udupi, gave employment to most of the educated GSB youths of Kerala until the nationalisation banks. This resulted in a steady improvement in the economic conditions and social status of the poor class. Majority of them became middle class by the sixties. From the concentrated pockets, they migrated to other towns and villages and lost active involvement in the community affairs. 

The introduction of Kerala Land Reforms Act in 1963 relating to the fixation of ceiling on land holdings, the vesting of lands in excess of the ceiling in Government, Assignment of surplus lands, abolition of tenancy system, assignment of proprietary right on land to the cultivating tenants, changed the fate of the temples and many GSBs. The landlords lost much of their land and the vast lands attached to the temples were taken over by the government. With deteriorating income most of the temples (except a few) now struggle for existence.

The present status

Individually and at family level, the GSBs have progressed economically and educationally. But a look at the state of temples and the schools run by the Devaswoms reveal the poor  community status of the GSBs in Kerala. The prestigious TD medical college of Alleppey owned by the GSBs was taken over by Govt. due to mismanagement and infighting within the community.

The present deteriorating status can be summed up as:

  • Lack of social leadership to project and fight for the causes (unlike the NSS or SNDP)

  • No political outlook or bargaining power (look at the Muslims or Christians)

  • Temples in deteriorating state

  • Religion and temples have become a place for personal projecton and personal selling

  • Unable to seperate religion from social perspective (look at the Nadars in Neyyattinkara area who live under the same roof being Hindu and Christain in the same family)

  • Schools in lost glory and opportunities

  • Cutoff from our brotherns in Karnataka who have progressed much beyond our imagination

  • No all kerala co-ordination or holistic view

  • Rivalry and jealousy among the groups based on locality

  • Divided and taking sides on the issue of the Swamijis

  • A self centered and self focussed collection of community members

  • Social movement restricted to only popularising Konkani just by printing some magazines (that too below standard)

In the nutshell, it is like Sachin scored the highest runs in the match but India lost. If the  community continues in this state of affairs, we may loose our temples and even  our identity in the days to come.

The Grama sabha movement

The movement started in 1984 with the blessings of Sree Sudhindra Tirtha Swamiji. The intentions were noble but presently it has become just a meeting place for showoff.  

The potential

At present we have a generation educated, economically sound, well informed and  positioned. We have many professionals like Doctors, Engineers, CAs, Teachers, Bankers  etc. There are also rich busnessmen and NRIs. We have temples and associated real estate in prime towns and locations. We have basic infrastructure in the TD schools. 

What to do

Community development


  • Separate the community development from religion.

  • Develop a strong all kerala body organized professionally for societal and educational services in the lines of MES/NSS. All the schools and educational institutions to be brought under this body and to be developed into well known schools. Start new professional colleges using the manpower we already have. Even we can dream of developing into a University in the lines of MAHE (Manipal Academy of Higher Education)

  • Implement societal development projects for rehabilitation and bachelor lodging facilities for employees in major towns.

  • Scholarships for bright and poor students

  • Bargaining with Govt. at political level

  • Strengthen the Grama Sabha movement

  • A common board or trust for control and governance of temples keeping its federal nature.

  • The idols from smaller or sub temples to be shifted to major temples in the same area.

  • In cities where more than one temple exists nearby, to be merged and idols shifted to the major temple and the other area to be used for community projects like Marriage Halls, Shopping complexes, Lodging for the community members, Expanding the nearby schools etc. The additional revenue will be used for religious purposes/temple development and (if in excess) also for funding societal/educational projects. (A  good example is the two Alleppey temples and sub-temples of Kayankulam)

Who will bell the cat?



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