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In a highly stratified society like Kerala in the 19th century, the lower castes were not allowed to use the public roads and tanks. They were not even allowed to mix with their fellow human beings. In 1917, social reformer and poet Sahodaran Ayyappan initiated a Mixed Caste Feast (Panthibhojanam) in order to overcome the caste barriers. However, few people have noted that Sahodaran Ayyappan’s inspiration comes from a Panthibhojanam event initiated by Rev.Henry Baker on first January 1855.  The Anglican Church did not believe in the thesis of man polluting man and it wanted to do away with such a practice.

In Pramod Gopalakrishnan’s relief work, the Panthibhojanam event is recreated. Seven people are seated for a feast and the eighth one is seen serving them with delicacies. In fact there were 92 people in the original event. From their body postures and dress one could deduce them as people hailing from the downtrodden castes. A few of the diners are looking out of the relief frame and it obviously shows the presence of people who have come to witness such revolutionary act. In the present context the viewers who stand before the relief themselves become the witnesses to that historical moment and also it provides an occasion to contemplate on the social differences that had once severely divided the Kerala society. The standing figure is the benign soul who has taken the initiative to conduct such a revolutionary act amidst all the oppositions.

Published On: January 27th, 2024Categories: Relief Sculpture

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