(First published in INSIGHT blog)
He was born on 28 August 1863 in Travancore, Kerala. He was one of the seven children of Ayyan of Pulaya caste (agricultural labour). Ayyankali grew up to be a tall, well built and handsome young man. He was known for his physical prowess and proficiency in the martial arts.
One particular child hood incident made Ayyankali aware of the caste prejudices prevalent in Travancore society. While playing football with children of his age the ball kicked by Ayyankali fell on the roof of a Nair house. The Nair warned him not to play with diku young men. Deeply hurt, he took oath never to play with them.
Then he went into a period of deep thought. He came out of a month of contemplation, a la Buddha, with a secret agenda - civil liberties for the untouchables.