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| | | | 1973-1978
From 1918 to 1930  


He became the Chairman of Erode Municipality

Many essential welfare schemes were implemented effectively by him. Particularly the drinking water scheme was skilfully executed.
While Periyar was the Chairman of Erode Municipality, friendship blossomed between himself and Mr. C. Rajagopalachariyar (Rajaji) who later became Governor - General of India.
Mr. P. Varadharajulu Naidu and Mr. C. Rajagopalachariyar persuaded Periyar to join the Indian National Congress party led by Mr. M.K. Gandhi.
Resigning the Chairmanship of Erode Municipality, Periyar enrolled himself as member of that party.
He ardently participated in the Non-Co-operation movement launched against the British rule by "Mahatma" Gandhi.
On the latter's clarion call, Periyar resigned all the 29 public positions held by him. He gave up the family trade and closed the business concern which was earning Rs. 20,000 annually (in those days) when the price of a gold sovereign was not even Rs. 10!.
He defied the prohibitory order under section 144, promulgated at Erode for the first time and courted arrest for pecketing today shops.
Periyar trusted and accepted Mahatma Gandhi as his leader.
So, as a true disciple he began to execute every word of Gandhi into deed.
One such example is Khadhi cloth spun and wouln by hand. As soon as the command of Gandhi for wearing Khadhi cloth was announced, Periyar immediately shed away all his costly foreign clothes and began to wear Khadhi. Also he forced all the members of his family, including his mother, aged 80 years to wear Khadhi dress only!
Forsaking pomp hitherto enjoyed, Periyar implicitly enforced simplicity in every aspect of his life-journey.
The policy of Prohibition of Liquors was first conceived only at the house of Periyar. When Gandhi came to Erode and stayed at his residence, his wife Nagammal and his sister Kannammal explained the unbearable agony of the wives tortured by their drunkard husbands and strongly stressed to draw a policy on prohibition of liquors. They also pleaded to launch an agitation in this regard.
Their worthy suggestion was accepted at once by Gandhi. He announced that the Congress party men should undertake picketing in front of toddy shops throughout the country for urging the British Government to implement the policy of liquor-prohibition.
To accomplish the command of Gandhi for upholding the policy of liquor - prohibition, Periyar had cut and uprooted more than 500 coconut - trees in his vast grove, from which toddy was obtained. Such was his commitment to prohibition.
At Erode, Periyar was leading the agitators and picketed before the toddy - shop.
He was arrested and sentenced to undergo imprisonment for one month.
His wife Nagammal and Sister Kannammal also bravely jumped into the agitation and they led women volunteers for picketing in front of liquor-shop.
When some Congress front-line leaders requested 'Mahatma' Gandhi to stop that agitation, he seriously told them that such a decision of stopping the agitation was not in his hands but of two women at Erode, implying the wife and the sister of Periyar!.
Then, Periyar became the President of Tamil - Nadu Congress Committee.

At the provincial conference of that party held at Tiruppur, he moved a resolution which urged that all the "Untouchables" of Dravidian race, should be allowed to enter the temples for worship. But the Brahmins of the Congress Committee obstructed the passing the resolution.

Provoked by their frenzy of caste - "Varuna Dharma" Periyar declared that he would burn "Manusmiruthi", "Ramayana", etc., because these had been utilised by the wily Brahmins, as their religious weapons to suppress the Dravidian race with evilm of caste and superstitions.


The Government of Justice Party headed by Raja of Panagal passed an Act in the Madras State Legislative Council to create the Hindu Religious Endowment Board to end the exploitation of the Brahmins in Hindu temples.

Though he was a Congress leader, Periyar supported that legislation brought by the Justice Party Government, due to his sincere concern for securing social justice as well as the rights of education, employment, economy, etc., to the Dravidian race oppressed by the Hindu Aryans.


Periyar appreciated the measures of the Justice Party Government for implementing the policy of Communal Reservation in education and employment through Government Order.

To abolish the cruel system of "Untouchability" sternly observed by the Brahmins as a mode of oppressing the Adhi-Dravidas (the lowest of the Hindu Castes) like slaves - Periyar daringly led the agitation at VAIKOM town in Kerala State defying the prohibitory law order.

In the temple town of Vaikom, the low caste people including (Ezhavas) were not allowed to walk in the streets around the temple. So the"Sathyagraha" - agitation was started by local Congress party people.

They requested Periyar to come from Tamil Nadu to take up the leadership of Sathyagraha he led the agitation. Hence, he was arrested and sent to jail. In that case, he was sentenced twice. On the seond occasion he was to undergo imprisonment for six months term. The Sathyagraha went on for one year.

Then the streets were thrown open to the Untouchables.

That courageous social sacrifice and fight for the human rights, secured victory. The title of honour as "Hero of Vaikom" was conferred on Periyar.

1924- Sep 11
He was awarded jail sentence for his earlier propagation for Khadhi cloth and for boycott of the foreign goods imported by the British Rule.
Discrimination was shown by V.V.S. Iyer, a Brahmin in charge of the National Training School hostel called "Gurukulam" at Cheranmaadhevi near Thirunelveli, between the students of Brahmin caste and the non- Brahmin castes, although that hostel-attached institution was funded by Tamil Nadu Congress Committee and also by Dravidian philanthropists.
Iyer's caste-oriented approach towards the Brahmin students segregating the Dravidian students with caste-fanaticism, infuriated Periyar. Hence this Great humanist resigned the post of Secretary of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee.
However Periyar was then elected as the President of Tamil Nadu Congress Committee.
He presided over the provincial conference of the Congress party held at Tiruvannamalai in November - 1924.
Since 1920, he had been moving a resolution in Congress conferences demanding the Communal Reservation in Government jobs and education for the Non-Brahmins (Dravidians) to drive out their degradation and attain higher positions in all spheres of life on par with the dominating Brahmins. Similarly he proposed such resolution at Tiruvannamalai Congress Conference also.
But it was defeated by the Brahmins as they plotted at the Conferences of Tirunelveli (1920), Thanjavur (1921), Tiruppur (1922) and Salem (1923).
Speaking at a public meeting at Salem, Periyar cautioned that unless the right of communal representation for the Non-Brahmins was attained during the British Rule itself, the Brahmin supremacy could not at all be ended and the Dravidian race had to suffer under the tyranny of "BRAHMINOCRACY" (The “Hindu” Centenary Special Number: page 337). Thus he even coined that new word.

1925- May 2
Periyar published a Tamil Weekly under the title “Kudi Arasu” edited by himself to spread the principles of Self-Respect for the awakening of the Dravidian race against the oppression by the Brahmins with their cruel caste - system and superstition of Hindu Religion.
The first issue of "Kudi Arasu" was released by the reputed Tamil Religious Scholar and eloquent orator by name Thiruppathiripuliyur - Gnaniyar Swamygal.
1925- Nov
Again at the Congress conference held at Kancheepuram under the Chairmanship of the great versatile Tamil author, editor, orator and labour leader Thiru. Vi. Kalyana sundaranar, (Thiru. Vi. Ka.), the resolution demanding Communal represintation was moved by Periyar for the Non-brahmins.
As usual, the cunning Brahmins stalled its passage. That defeat enraged Periyar so such as to quit the Congress Party, the hierarchy of which was completely captured and dominated by the Brahmins.
While bidding farewell to the Congress, Periyar thunderously vowed that his only future task was to destroy that Brahmin Raj in party by all means. On his leaving the conference, a large group of front line leaders and volunteers also followed him.
At the same town Kancheepuram, Periyar organised parallel a conference of Non-Brahmins.
In his address, Periyar declared that the difference of racial identity between the Dravidians and the Aryans (Brahmins) had always been existing from very ancient times and its prevalence in the Congress Party also could not at all be denied. Therefore, he stressed the compelling need of the Dravidians to preserve the SELF-RESPECT of their race, language, and culture which had been degraded by the Brahminical dominance bynusing caste-system and superstition of Hindu religion.
Thus Periyar founded the SELF-RESPECT Movement in 1925 after his exit from the Congress Party.

He participated in many Non-Brahmin Conferences held at various places of Tamil Nadu and propagated the principles of his SELF-RESPECT Movement to kindle the awakening of the Dravidian race for freeing themselves from the slavery of Brahmins.


Periyar met the Congress leader M.K. Gandhi at Bangalore and strongly argued that unless the poisonous caste-system called "Varnashrama Dharma" was uprooted, the eradication of the "Untouchability" stubbornly practised by the Brahmins could not at all be made possible.
He also emphatically told Gandhi that before fighting for the freedom of India, three threatening evils - viz., (1) The Congress Party (Under the seizure of more Brahmin office - bearers), (2) Hindu religion with its caste - system and (3) the Dominance of Brahmins in the society should be put an end first.

When the strike of the workers of the Railway workshop at Nagappattinam broke out, Periyar, as the supporter of labourers was arrested and sent to jail.

With the active support of Periyar, Mr. S. MUTHAIYA (Mudaliar), a Minister in the Dr. P. SUBBARAYAN's 'Independent' ministry, implemented the Communal Reservation scheme of the Justice Party.

Periyar published an English magazine under the title "Revolt" on 7-11-1928.

The first provincial conference of Self-Respect Movement was organised by Periyar at Chengalpattu in February 1929. Mr. W.P.A. Soundara Pandian, presided over that conference.
Periyar introduced a new rationalist marriage system called "Self-Respect Marriage". While conducting it, all the religious rituals and uttering of "Mantras" by Brahmins in Sanskrit should be forbidden. It would be enough for the new couple to garland each other and declare the wedding affirmation in mother-tongue. The marriage should not be arranged pompously but should be very economic. These are the conditions laid down by Periyar for his reformatory wedlock system. By this new matrimonial arrangement, he has secularized the marriage. Any person irrespective of any religion could conduct the marriage by asking the bride and the bridegroom to exchange garlands and make a declaration for becoming life-partners.
Besides this new wedding system, Periyar also encouraged inter-caste marriages and widow marriages.

1929- Dec 15

On invitation from Tamilians in Malaya Country (now Malaysia), Periyar started his voyage in a ship from Nagapattinam. He was accompanied by his wife Nagammal and some other followers.

1929- Dec 20

At Penang harbour, a rousing reception was accorded to Periyar and his group by more than 50,000 Malay Tamils.
1929- Dec 23
At IPOH (Malaysia), Periyar inaugurated the Tamils Conference convened by the Tamils Reformatory Sangam.
1929- Dec 26
At Singapore, warm welcome was given to Periyar and his group. He addressed the conference organised by Malaya Indian Congress. (Then Singapore was a province of Malaya nation under the British rule. Now it is an independent souvereign State)
He addressed many meetings at various places like Kualalumpur, Taeiping, Malacca, Sungeipattani etc., propagating the principles of the "Self-Respect Movement".

1930- Jan 16
Periyar and his group returned from Malaya to Tamil Nadu.
As a pioneer, Periyar published his book on "Family Planning" (Birth Control) and propagated restriction of number of children. He was the first rationalist leader and author of a book in India, who stressed the prime need of Family Planning even before the Government of India implemented that scheme.
1930- May 10, 11
At Erode, the Second Provincial Conference of the Self Respect Movement was convened by Periyar under the chairmanship of Mr. M.R. Jayakar from Pune, a rationalist leader. Youth conference, Women's conference, Prohibition of Liquor Conference, Tamil Music patronage conference were also conducted there at that time.
He actively supported the Bill for the abolition of Devadasi system (setting apart young girls from a particular community playing musical instruments in Hindu temples as dancing girls).
Dr. Muthulakshmi (Reddy) a woman reformer brought that Bill which was passed in the Madras Legislative Council despite stout opposition by the caste-fanatic Brahmin leaders.