Mannathu Padmanabhan (1878-1970)

Mannathu Padmanabhan was a great social reformer who hailed from the State of Kerala. He was born on 02 January 1878. Eswaran Namboodiri of Nilavana Illam was his father. His mother, Parvathy Amma came from a poor but respectable Nair family near Changanacherry, in North Travancore.

Padmanabhan started as a teacher in 1893 on a salary of rupees five per month in a Government Primary School. In 1905, he started practising law in the Magistrates’ Courts and soon became a leading member of the Bar. In 1915 he gave up a lucrative practice and became full-time secretary of the Nair Service Society that had been started at his initiative in 1914. He established, expanded and enriched the Society as its Secretary for 31 years and as President for three years.

In 1924 he took part in the Vaikkom and Guruvayoor temple-entry and anti-untouchability agitation. He became a member of the Indian National Congress in 1947 and took part in the Travancore State Congress agitation against Sir C.P Ramaswamy Iyer’s administration in Travancore.

In 1949 Padmanabhan became a member of the Travancore Legislative Assembly. In 1959 he led a united opposition against the State Communist Ministry which had become unpopular. This ultimately resulted in inviting President’s rule to Kerala.

During all these years the Nair Service Society had his constant attention and selfless service. It had now grown into a powerful organisation with a vast membership, substantial finances and various welfare activities. Besides looking after this work, Padmanabhan wrote many articles, an autobiography, and a travel book, Our Trip to the Federated Malay States, some criticisms and a novel, Snehalata. His style was virile, forthright and very effective. He also set up colleges, schools, hospitals and industrial units. In appreciation of his valuable services the President of India awarded him the title ‘Bharata Kesari’.

He passed away in February 1970