Periyar’s Ideas continue to reverberate even after 49 years of his death


Rama Swami Naicker is a known personality in India's national history and Tamil Nadu's regional history. He is considered as one of the front faces in bringing radical change within the Tamil socio-political sphere.

E.V Ramaswamy, also popularly known as Periyar or ‘The Great One’, laid the ideological foundations of modern Tamil politics and social life. He who famously called Periyar who also founded the Dravidian Movement.

An event in Varanasi in 1904 changed his life forever-He went to Varanasi to visit the Kashi Vishwanath temple but saw that the much-touted pilgrimage centre was a nidus of ignorance and superstition with dead bodies floating in the river.

However, one affronting incident was to change his ideology and life forever, he saw that the temples were feeding exclusively to the Brahmins, so Periyar decided to dress as brahmin and adopted incognito, however his moustache gave out as the brahmins were not allowed to keep moustaches. When he was pushed by the guard, he fell near a plaque which mentioned that a merchant of the Balija caste had donated to the temple.

The twinge of that incident remained forever and he became an anti-Brahminical crusader.

One of Periyer’s most significant contributions was exposing varnashrama dharma, the caste system of Hinduism by which the status of superiority was denoted to individuals. Rationalism formed the bedrock of his ideology.

“One should respect others in a way which one expects to be respected by others. This is a revolutionary principle for the Hindus. It can materialise not by reform but by revolution only. There are certain things that cannot be mended but only ended. Brahmanic Hinduism is one such thing.” Periyar stated.

 A look at Periyars journey

1879- Periyar born as Erode Venkatappa Ramaswamy

1919- Joined Indian National Congress

1920- Elected as the President of Madras Provincial Congress Committee.

1924- Participated in the Viakom Satyagraha

1925- Resigned from the Indian National Congress and formed Self-respect movement.

1929-32- Periyar toured Europe and the Soviet Union

1939- Ramaswamy became the head of justice party

1940- Successfully opposed the imposition of Hindi.

1953- Broke the idols of Lord Ganesha

1973- Died at the age of 94

 His publications

  • 1925- He established KudyArasua Tamil weekly 

  • 1928- published “revolt” and English Magazine.

  • 1930- published a book on “Family Planning”

  • 1933- Published Puratchi’ meaning Revolution

  • 1934- published ‘ Pagutharivu’ (Rationalism) a Tamil Weekly in 1934

IN 1950 he was imprisoned for the publication of his book Ponmozhigal (Golden sayings).

“Unmai (Truth)  a Tamil Bi-monthly was first started at Tiruchirappalli by him in 1970.

In 2022, DMK government decided to translate the works of Periyar in 21 languages.

Periyar with Gandhi and Ambedkar   

Although considered to be staunchly anti-hindu and anti-congress he found himself on the same stage with Gandhi at the Viokom Satyagraha, which opened temple entry in the viokom temple of state of Travancore. But was staunchly against his ideology of Karma and the coinage of the term “Harijan.

But he found himself on the same page with Ambedkar intellectually. He took the cudgels on the behalf of Ambedkar in Kudyarasu during the second round table conference in 1932.  Both of them were fierce critic of Hinduism and its inherent “Brahminism”.

Ambedkar met Periyar in 1940 at Madras (Chennai) and discussed the plight of Dalits and backward classes. They again met in 1944 in Madras .KudyArasu continued to publish Ambedkars position on various issues. They met for the last time in 1954 in Kathmandu.  The Ambedkarite thinking has assimilated the Periyar school of thought and the Ambedkarite movement has kept alive his legacy even 49 years after his death.

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