Dravidar Kazhagam

The Birth of a Revolution

Dravidar Kazhagam decided in its Central Committee meeting in November to undertake an agitation demanding to put an end to the practice of appointing only Brahmins as Archakas in Agamic temples, as a way of removing one of the root causes of Varna-Jaathi. The United Nations Educational Scientific and Cultural Organisation (UNESCO) gave an Award to Periyar, and the Union Education Minister, Triguna Sen in Madras (Chennai) on 27th June 1970, presented it to him. The citation hailed Periyar as "the Prophet of the New Age, the Socrates of South East Asia, Father of Social Reform Movement, and Arch enemy of ignorance, superstitions, meaningless customs and base manners."

"Unmai", a Tamil monthly (now a fortnightly) and Modern Rationalist, an English monthly, were started by Periyar in 1970 and 1971 respectively to propagate the ideals of rational humanism more extensively. The Allahabad High Court lifted proscription of the Hindi version of Periyar's book on Ramayana in 1971. In the same year the proscription of "RavanaKavyam" proscribed by the Congress Government of the Madras State was removed. On 12th January 1971, the DMK Government enacted a law giving equal opportunities to qualified persons to become the Archakas(priests) of Hindu Agamic temples irrespective of their birth in any Varna or Jaathi. On 23rd January a huge "procession of the eradication of superstitions" took place in Salem. The precisionists carried large pictures and portraits truly depicting the events and gods described in epics and puranas. When a few intolerant orthodox onlookers threw footwears at the procession, the marchers used the same materials to beat the portrait of Rama beheading the Shudra Sambuka in deep meditation. This action of the Periyarists was blown out of proportion by the media throughout India. They also published the pictures of gods and goddesses carried by the marchers. This event was used against DMK-Congress alliance in the general elections held in March 1971. But both the parties secured massive majority, the DMK in Tamil Nadu Assembly and the Congress in the Lok Sabha.
On March 14, 1972 the Supreme Court gave a seemingly ambiguous judgment in the case against the Tamil Nadu Government's 1971 enactment that threw the job of Archakas open to all the qualified persons irrespective of their caste. As the bureaucracy interpreted this judgement, in favour of the conservatives who defended the status quo,Periyar announced an agitation, exhorting people to work for equal human rights in all spheres including social, religious and cultural. This agitation had become necessary to remove the indignity to the people belonging to the Dravidian race because they were dubbed as Shudras and Panchamas according to Vedic and Brahminical Sanathana Dharma known as Hindu religion.

Periyar organised a conference in Chennai on 8th and 9th December 1973. It was known as "Eradication of the social indignity of the Tamils Conference". The conference decided to fight for equal rights and opportunities for persons of all castes to enter into GarbaGraha(Sanctum Sanctorum), known as "KaruvaraiNuzhaivuPorattam" in Tamil. He undertook extensive tours to explain the need to bring to an end the Brahmin domination or privileges in priesthood and in other religious rites and ceremonies as an essential measure to reorganise the social order on the basis of equality.In the meanwhile, the court set aside on October 11, a case against inscribing on the pedestal of Periyar's statues, his famous pronouncements (made in 1967) denying god and denouncing the worship and propagation of the same.

In his last meeting at Thiyagaraya Nagar. Chennai on 19th December 1973, Periyar gave an inspiring clarion call for action to gain social equality and dignified way of life. He fell ill on the next day and breathed his last on 24th December 1973.Periyar's life marked a turning in history and the beginning of a new era.

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