Mannathu Padmanabhan, a social reformer and freedom fighter from the southern state of Kerala, is renowned as the founder of the Nair Service Society (NSS), which represents the Nair community that comprises 15.5% of the state’s population. Padmanabhan is considered a visionary reformer who organized the Nair community under the NSS.
Padmanabhan was born in Perunna village in Changanacherry, Kottayam District, British India on 2 January 1878 to Easwaran Namboothiri of Nilavana Illam and Mannathu Parvathy Amma. He initially worked as a teacher in a government primary school and later started practicing law in the Magistrates Courts from 1905.
On 31 October 1914, he established the Nair Service Society with the help of a few others. His primary aim was to uplift the status of the Nair community. He served as the society’s secretary for 31 years and as its president for three years. He was honored with the title Bharata Kesari by the President of India and received the Padma Bhushan in 1966.
Padmanabhan fought for social equality, beginning with the Vaikom Satyagraha, where he demanded that the public roads near the temple at Vaikom be opened to low-caste Hindus. He also participated in the Vaikom (1924) and Guruvayoor (1931) temple-entry Satyagrahas and the anti-untouchability agitations. He opened his family temple to everyone, regardless of caste distinction.
Padmanabhan passed away on 25 February 1970, at the age of 92, due to age-related complications. The Mannam memorial (or Samādhi) is located at the NSS Headquarters in Changanacherry, and he is regarded as the reformer and moral guide of the members of the Nair community.