Periyar E.V. Ramasamy was a famous Indian social activist and politician. He was one of the first people to make profound contributions towards encouraging equality in Indian society. He worked for Indian National Congress for a few years. He later became the head of the Justice Party.
He greatly promoted the principles of rationalism and self-respect. Not only that, he promoted women’s rights and worked for the abolition of the caste system as well. Also, he worked for preserving the rights of the non-Brahmin Dravidian people of South India.
Let us look at the life of the rationalist in detail!
Quick Facts about Periyar
- Full Name: Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy
- Also Known As: Periyar, Vaikom Veerar, Venthaadi Venthan, and Thanthai Periyar
- Famous As: Father of the Dravidian movement
- Born On: 17 September 1879
- Died On: 24 December 1973
- Birthplace: Erode, Madras Presidency, British India (now, Tamil Nadu, India)
- Education: Primary School
- Parents: Venkatappa Naiudu (Father), Chinna Thayammal (Mother)
- Profession: Social Activist and Politician
- Religion: Atheist
- Spouse: Annai E.V.R. Nagammai (m. 1899; died 1933); Annai E.V.R. Maniammai (m. 1948)
- Children: Periyar E.V. Ramasamy had a daughter with Annai E.V.R. Nagammai. However, their daughter died five months after her birth in 1901.
Early Life of the Great Social Activist
Periyar E.V. Ramasamy was born into a Kannada Balija merchant family in Erode, a part of Madras Presidency in British India. He had an elder brother as well as two sisters.
He went to school for five years, following which he joined his father’s business. His father was a religious person, and he loved listening to the gurus as well. However, E.V. Ramasamy soon began criticizing the Hindu mythological stories.
The Turning Point in His Life
The turning point in E.V. Ramasamy’s life came when he went to Kashi to visit the Shiva temple of Kashi Vishwanath. He noticed that three meals were being served to the guests at the worship site. However, he didn’t get to get anything as the meals were only for the Brahmins.
Following this, he decided to dress as a Brahmin to get the food. However, one person noticed that he had a mustache, so he can’t be a Brahmin. As a result, the gatekeeper stopped his entry and pushed him to the street disrespectfully. This incident had a massive impact on how he viewed Hinduism. He turned into an atheist after he visited Kashi.
Marriage and Family Life
Periyar E.V. Ramasamy married Annai E.V.R. Nagammai in 1899. At the time of marriage, he was 19 while she was 13. In 1901, a daughter was born to them, but their daughter died just five months old. The two remained married until Nagammai died in 1933.
E.V. Ramasamy married Annai E.V.R. Maniammai in 1948, and the two remained married until he died in 1973. She had joined the Justice Party around 1942.
The Career of the Originator of the Self-Respect Movement
Periyar E.V. Ramasamy’s political career began in 1919 upon joining the Indian National Congress. He worked for them for the following years until his resignation in 1925. He resigned because he felt that the party was only working for the welfare of the Brahmins.
He became the president of the Justice Party in 1938. In 1944, he announced that the party would subsequently be known as Dravidar Kazhagam. He served for the party until 1973. He was succeeded by his second wife, Annai E.V.R. Maniammai.
Was he an Anti-Hindu?
Periyar never believed in any religion. He was opposed to several rights given to other religions than Dalits and other castes. At a young age, he questioned Hindu rituals and opposed them openly.
He led several anti-Hindi movements in Tamil Nadu. But he said do not just believe what others say. If you think it and want to follow it, then only do it. Such were his thoughts and beliefs which were mistook to be anti-Hindu.
He was against reservation for Brahmins and wanted to eradicate that which again stirred issues with Brahmins.
Controversies by Periyar
Periyar, as said, was against caste discrimination. So he openly said against everything he disliked. This created a lot of controversies. One such was burning or destroying Hindu God idols. He even said vicious things about Hindu Gods. His atheism was Obnoxious. But he didn’t fear putting it out open.
Besides, when he went to Bangalore in 1958 to participate in the All India Official Language Conference, he favored English as the Union Official Language instead of Hindi.
Thoughts and Beliefs of Great Rationalist
Periyar’s thoughts were ahead of his times. Even though he didn’t believe in many thoughts, then, he was a great socialist. He is known to be the Universal Rationalist owning to his strong opinions.
Was he crude? Yes, he was, but then he was feminist decades back which is prevalent now. This is how he was a forward thinker and great intellectual.
Contributions by E.V. Ramasamy
E.V. Ramasamy has significantly contributed to various issues. Here are some of them:
- While being a member of the Congress party, he became the chairman of the Erode Municipality. He then extended khadi’s use, putting an end to untouchability and boycotting shops that sold foreign cloth. However, he also undertook programs that picketed toddy shops. This led him to jail in 1921. He was arrested once again for his contributions to the Non-Cooperation Movement and the Temperance Movement.
- Periyar E.V. Ramasamy is most famous for starting the Self-Respect Movement or the Dravidian Movement. The movement was started for the goal of removing inequality in society. The movement specially catered to the non-brahmins and eliminating the differences between them and Brahmins.
- Besides the contributions mentioned above, he has also promoted the fundamentals of rationalism and women’s rights.
Lesser-Known Facts about Periyar E.V. Ramasamy
- Tamil poet-philosopher Thiruvalluvar greatly influenced Periyar E.V. Ramasamy. He believed in the communist and secularist ideas that were mentioned in the writer’s Thirukkural. He believed that those ideas would bring prosperity to the world.
- He wasn’t a fan of Mahatma Gandhi and instead used to criticize him for not controlling Brahminical privileges heavily.
- The 2007 government-sponsored film, Periyar, was based on his life. Actor Sathyaraj plays E.V. Ramasamy while actress Khushbu Sundar plays Annai E.V.R. Maniammai in the film.
- Periyar removed his surname Ramaswamy which showcased his caste in support of caste discrimination.
- Even he was well settled; he got rid of foreign clothes and worn Khadi clothes. He even forced his 80 years old mother to wear Khadi clothes.
- Periyar married his second wife, Maniammai, when he was 70 years old. She was 32 years at the time of marriage. The marriage took place to have a legal heir for Periyar owning to laws at that time.
Books written by Periyar
Here are some of the books written by Periyar E.V. Ramasamy:
- Periyar Kalanchiyam – Kudiarasu
- Why were women enslaved?
- Purattu Himalaya Purattu
- Periyar on Buddhism
Later Years, Death and Legacy
Periyar E.V. Ramasamy continued working as a social activist for his life until his death on 24 December 1973. He died of acute Hernia and wished to be taken to Vellore before his death.
He did great work in the field of women’s rights and eradication of the caste system. He fought for equality and for removing the differences between the Brahmins and the non-Brahmins.
As good as he was in the fields mentioned above, he will always remain a massively controversial Indian political figure.
Famous Quotes by Periyar E.V. Ramasamy
“Wisdom lies in thinking. The spear-head of thinking is rationalism.”
“Only education, self-respect and rational qualities will uplift the down-trodden.”
“To discard what is unwanted, and to retain what is needed, is what reform means.”
“You cannot expect any rational thought from a religious man. He is like a rocking log in water.”
“Every one has the right to refute any opinion. But no one has the right to prevent its expression.”
“Politics does not concern itself who should rule us. It is about what kind of rule people should have.”
“There is no use of simply acquiring titles or amassing wealth if one has no self-respect and scientific knowledge.”
“Religious devotion is for the individual. Character is for all. There is no loss if there is no devotion. Everything is lost if there is no character.”
“Village reform is not merely cleaning the roads, constructing schools and worshipping monasteries. It is not mere celebration of festivals.”
“Any opposition not based on rationalism, science, or experience will one day or another, reveal the fraud, selfishness, lies and conspiracies.”
“Marriages should culminate on account of the wishes of the couple. It is their knitting of the hearts that should lead to marriages.”
“The proper task of social reform is to remove poverty from society and to ensure that people do not sell their conscience to make a living.”
“Our thoughts of literary renaissance should always center themselves on the removal of superstition, meanness, indignity and ignorance.”
“Whomsoever I love and hate, my principle is the same. That is, the educated, the rich and the administrators should not suck the blood of the poor.”
“As long as we give room for domination and the dominators, there will be worries and worried people. Poverty and pestilence will live eternally in the country.”
“By helping the poor, we must be able to remove their poverty. But extending help to one here and one there in the form of providing food will not remove poverty.”
“Man does not grow by merely accepting whatever others have said. However, do listen to others, but later think with the help of your reason. Accept and try to follow what appears right to you.”
“I am a plain person. I have merely spoken out my mind. I do not say you should believe what I have said because it alone is certain. Accept such ideas as can be accepted, with the help of your reason, after a sound inquiry. Reject the rest.”
“Capitalists control the machineries. They create difficulties to the workers. Consequently rationalism, which has to lead the way for peaceful life to all, has resulted in causing poverty and worries to the people because of dominating forces.”
“I express, plainly and openly, thoughts which occur to me, and which strike me as right. This may embarrass a few; to some this may be distasteful; and a few others may even be irritated; however, all that I utter are proven truths and not lies.”
“Man is equal to man. There should not be exploitation. One should help the other. No one should harm anybody. Generally there should be no room for grievance or complaint from anybody. Everyone should live and let others live, with a national spirit.”
“The number of those who do selfless public service and those who serve without expecting any return, should increase. Their sterling qualities should show the way to the people at large. Their life would be a model to show how man should conduct himself in public life.”