E.V. Ramasamy Naicker Periyar


Tamil Nadu government recently announced on birth anniversary of E.V Ramasamy Periyar to celebrate the day as ‘Day of Social Justice’ i.e., 17 September every year.


Erode Venkatappa Ramasamy was born on 17th September 1876 in Madras Presidency. He belonged to a rich business family of a backward community. He was honoured with the title of Periyar that means ‘The Great Man’. He is regarded as ‘Father of Tamil Nadu’ for his great contributions toward the upliftment of socially backward people and women.

A famous incident of his life happened during Kashi pilgrimage turned him into an atheist forever.


He joined Indian National Congress as the President of the Indian National Committee in 1919 to establish social justice in the society. He was the first non-Brahminical president.

He led Vaikkom Satyagraha in 1919 in Kerela. This movement was inspired by Mahatma Gandhi’s Satyagraha technique. It was a fight against injustice towards the people of lower caste who were not allowed to enter temples and even in nearby streets. During the incident, Periyar was even imprisoned. But finally, he became successful in raising his voice and was called as Hero of Vaikkom.

In 1925, Periyar left the Congress after his idea of ‘Communal Representation’ was discarded in an Open Session. He named the INC as “Fortness of Brahmin Imperialism”.

He joined and headed a Justice Party in 1938 which was later turned into a non-political unit called as ‘DRAVID KAZHAGAM’. The current regional political parties of Tamil Nadu – DMK, AIADMK, MDMK are carved out of the DRAVIDA KAZHAGAM.


Self-Respect Movement (1925): Periyar launched this movement to bring social reforms and uplift low caste people against the exploitation and oppression of the Brahmins (upper caste) in the name of Religion, Caste and Spirituality. They have dehumanized the majority of Dravidian people in the South more than the colonial subjugation. This movement emphasized that Non-Brahmins of Tamil Region should be proud of their Dravidian tradition and developed the spirit of Unity among themselves to challenge Brahminical Hegemony. In this movement Manu smriti was burnt, people drop the description of caste from their names and Weddings were organized in the absence of the Priests. Naicker held the Aryan responsible for introducing an unjust and oppressive social system and even called ‘Purana’ as imaginary and irrational Fairy Tales, which are grossly immoral.

Criticism of Gandhi and Congress: He felt that Congress is working for the interest of Brahmins. He opposed to Gandhi’s reconstructed version of Varna Vyavastha as it did not resemble to the way the caste had historically functional. He interpreted Gandhian nationalism as Hegemonic Project to maintain the dominance of Brahmins. When asked “what should be destroyed?” He gave a strong statement saying, “God, religion, congress and Gandhi should be destroyed.

Critical of Brahminism: He criticised Brahmins for creating a hierarchical social system “Varnashrama Dharma” in which the Hindu society was divided into four castes: Brahmins (priests), Kshatriyas (soldiers), Vaishya (traders) and the Shudras (Servants) in which economic and social privileges or restrictions were associated with castes in hierarchy. It was a rigid system too because you cannot change the caste you’re born in with your skills or merit because you’re born in one. The Brahmins was regarded as the highest and purest caste and therefore, they had supreme authority in all spheres of life over the other three castes while the lower castes were considered as impure; especially the Shudras were considered as the Untouchables and were not allowed to enter the temples, they had separate wells to dwell water from and were meant to reside at the outskirts of the villages. Periyar said “Who wants Religion, Scriptures and God, which cannot bring about a change in the sphere?”. He believed that the Casteism has made Society weak in general because of the mutual hatred among the people in particular. He also made it clear that he was against Brahminism and not the Brahmins that was the basis of caste system which justified social inequalities and injustices. He opinionated that every man and women deserve equal treatment irrespective of their caste.

Women’s Liberation: Periyar held women responsible for their own degradation which was worse than untouchables. They were deprived of education and right to question or disagree. He wanted to replace the word ‘Wedding’ to a’ Contract of Companionship of Life’. He wanted to liberate and uplift women through rigorous education, change in customs and birth control.

Rural Urban Ideas: Periyar equated the status of people of rural areas (Villages) to that of the Panchamas (Untouchables) which serve the towns. • The found that relation was imbalanced between the village and town in terms of economic relations as the villagers used to do the hardwork, the labouring and survive on the minimum wages while the city or town dwellers exploited their produce. He advocated for the elimination of villages and suggested that several villages must be linked together and must be developed into towns with provide complete facilities like schools, Hospitals, Parks, Cinema theatres, Magistrates and Markets. Therefore, complete Urbanization was the only way out.

Rationalism: Naicker viewed irrational mindset as the real cause of all human evils and sufferings. He asked people to question every custom or ritual instead of just believing into hearsays or something claimed as divine words. He even rejected the idea of God for he believed it was a concept introduced to develop fear and superstition among people. He summarized that economic, social and political development is possible only through rationalistic and scientific thinking.

He founded the Self Respect Communist Party to with an aim to nationalise industries, railways, banks, waterways, agriculture lands and forests and limit working hours to 8 hours a day and enhance the wages and conditions of the labourers. Though later he disbanded the Self Respect Communist Party in favour of the Self Respect Movement but his thoughts were remained influenced by Communism as he wanted to end the concept of private property and right to property.

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