The Caste Movement In South India was more pronounced and intense in form and acquired greater social and political importance. These movements carried a powerful anti-Brahmanical overtone.
Ideological center of Caste movement in South India
The ideological center of these movements was Madras in the south, though there were other secondary centers such as Madura, Chidambaram, Bangalore, Kallodakurichi, Kolhapur, and Poona.
The composite culture of the former Madras presidency enabled the seeds of the new ideology to spread to the whole of south India.
Background of Caste movement in South India
With the distinct and powerful brahmin predominance in education, employment, and general cultural life a greater caste rigidity formed the background for these movements.
Unlike the north, the brahmins stood apart in south India, they constituted exclusive groups. They were more closely associated with the scholarly tradition and Sanskritic learning. They also took a lead taking to a new system of education and thus came to be associated with the positions of power a privilege.
One significant form of reaction against the Brahmanical pre-dominance was the growth of Dravidian. This was a process of the assertion of their own mythology, and glorification of Dravidian culture.
Brahmins came to be branded as Aryan intruders, responsible for the emergence of distorted and corrupt socio-religious-cultural systems and organizations. This became an important facet of the idea of self-respect and a powerful component of the self-respect movement in the south after 1916.
Brahmini domination was less clear-cut and powerful in northern and eastern India, the principal factor which undermined their pre-eminence in caste lines emerged later and was weak, besides it did not gain much ground and strength.
Brahmanical pre-dominance: Major Cause of Caste movement in South India
One form, the movements assumed was elitist conflict and struggle. Powerful and affluent castes other than the brahmins waged a struggle against brahmin predominance in jobs, the education profession, legislatures, etc.
This variety of movements did not encompass the lower castes nor it was concerned with securing any right denied to those castes. This trend is manifested in the justice party movement for instance.
In this case, opposition to brahmin predominance did not come from the low and oppressed castes but from the leaders of the powerful dominant castes such as the kammas and reddis of the Telugu region, and the Nayak of Kerala in general.
The ritualistic powers of the brahmins and their overall pre-dominance in general cultural life gave rise to a rigid social structure and stringent norms.
Traditional social stratification was strengthened and social interaction came to be governed by strict rules of purity and pollution. The rules of purity and pollution were wedded with the concept of a typical classification in which certain castes stood pure by virtue of their being at higher rung and their contact, association, and interaction with certain other castes at lower strata amounted to defilement.
The result of such attitude, belief, and norms was the segregation of the castes at the lower rung & prohibition on their entry into the temple, use of public roads, tanks, and wells, etc. Here we find the expressions of total subordination of these castes- the wider background of such subordination lay in the ideas propounded by Brahmanical scriptures of ancient and early medieval times.
These ideas found a consolidated expression during the British period and gave birth to protest movement as we find in the case of S.N.D.P. Yogam, Satya Shudhark samaj movement, self-respect movement, etc. And the issue related to the rights in social & cultural fields denied to them became a core aspect of all these movements. In this case, what is discernable is that the reaction against brahmins took a progressive form together with a clear-cut democratic overtone. The concept of social equality and upward mobility emerged as the rallying ground.