Sahodaran Ayyappan was one of the most outstanding personalities of Kerarla who propagated the ideas of humanism, secularism, democracy and social justice. As a radical thinker, social reformer, legislator, administrator, journalist, orator and notable poet, he rendered remarkable services to the society and politics. He was also instrumental for the social renaissance in Kerala.
Ayyappan was born on 22nd August 1889 as the youngest of the nine children of Kochavu and Unnooli at Cherai, a village in Ernakulam district, Kerala. He took his BA degree from erstwhile Maharaja’s college, Thiruvanandapuram. During his studies at different colleges, he was attracted towards Sree Narayana Guru, who was the leading light of social renaissance. In those days society of Kerala was divided into different fragments based on castes. Lower Hindus were treated as slaves. They were not allowed to use the public roads, wells and even the schools and temples. All government appointments were reserved for high caste Hindus. Sree Narayana Guru was trying relentlessly to eradicate this social evil through his activities and teachings. Sahodaran Ayyappan became an ardent supporter and disciple of Guru. He organized the Sahodara Sangam, a group of enthusiastic young men interested in social change. After the general body meeting of the Sangam on 29-5-1917 (M.E.1092 Edavam 16), Ayyappan conducted the historic ‘Misrabhojanam’ (Dining along with lower castes). Misrabhojanam first of its kind in Kerala really paved the way for a social revolution. This sparkled a thundering roar in the society. Orthodox Ezhava leaders expelled Ayyappan and others who participated in the Mishrabhojanam from the community. They even tried to manhandle Ayyappan wherever he organized public meetings to propagate his ideas. At last Sree Narayana Guru himself came up with a message justifying Misrabhojanam. This is also enshrined in the Mahasandesam, which reads- “Irrespective of religion, appearance and language, human beings are one and the same kind and therefore there is no harm for marriages and Pandibhojanam between them”. Ayyappan started a publication titled Sahodaran in order to give propaganda of the ideas of social renaissance. After that he came to be known as Sahodaran Ayyapppan.
Sahodaran Ayyappan was a towering personality with indomitable courage, sincerity, straightforwardness, dynamism, unselfishness and statesmanship. He was an uncompromising enemy of social evils and customs dividing people in different levels. Leading from the front, he fought against all these evils in order to establish a better social order aiming at universal brother hood. He also preached for upholding human values rather than caste, religion or god.
In 1928 Sahodaran was elected to Kochi Assembly and in 1940 he was elevated to the post of deputy Chairman. In 1947 he became the Minister for public works. During his tenure as the minister he developed the 70 feet road in Ernakulam (Now Mahatma Gandhi road), by sacrificing the drawing room of his own residence. He also chalked out many programmes for the development of Kochi including the construction Gosree bridges connecting Ernakulam with Vypeen and other Islands. With the unification of Travancore and Kochi on 1-7-1949, Sahodaran became the minister for rural development in the Thirukochi state. He resigned from the ministry in December 1949. He was an exemplary leader of the masses who worked day and night to emancipate the sufferings of common man. His performance as a member of the legislative assembly was also commendable. It is worth noting that he was simple enough to travel in public transport bus after resigning from the cabinet. In short his entire deeds and actions elevated him to the status of a popular public man and social figure during his life time. After rendering resignation he was fully involved in the social and literary activities.