nov 14th, 2011 CE
good stuff, but there is an error that keeps coming up: that it was 'dalits' who were allowed into temples. in fact, as a commentor points out, the majority of hindus were previously prevented from entering temples. this was clearly ridiculous.
kerala had a peculiar social set up: there was a small number of brahmin nambudiris, a vanishingly small number of kshatriya varmas, no vaisyas, and a fair number of sudra nairs. they were all considered 'upper caste'. then came the 'lower castes': the biggest group of hindus was the farmer/laborer ezhavas. below them in the hierarchy were landless laborer harijans such as parayas, pulayas, et al.
large numbers of ezhavas converted to christianity based on the blandishments of missionaries, who offered them education if they converted. in fact, the majority of christians in kerala are the descendants of these ezhavas, who converted between 1819 and 1933, along with the nadars of kanyakumari district.
the rest of the ezhavas, pissed off at the discrimination that they were facing, threatened to en masse convert to christianity. which would have instantly made travancore 70% christian (it was already 33% christian based on the fact that nadars had converted in large numbers).
this had a salutary effect, perhaps more so than gandhi's weasel-words, on the thinking of the upper castes. and it led to the temple entry proclamation. i have the greatest regard for the maharajah of travancore for his farsightedness and his sense of justice, and believe that he was ahead of his time.
however, i believe the ezhavas were just using the threat of conversion as a bargaining chip. they had no intention of converting, as sri narayana guru had given the ezhavas tremendous self-confidence and self-reliance, and they had begun to realize that hinduism belonged to them just as much as it belonged to the sudra nairs, the kshatriya varmas and the brahmin nambudiris. and they weren't about to let go.