Life & Times

Life & Times

1879 Sep 17

PERIYAR E.V. RAMASAMY was born at Erode town in Tamil Nadu State – India.

Father : VENKATA (NAICKER) A popular rich merchant; Ardent devotee of Hindu religion. (A Vaishnavite)


Brother-Elder : E.V. Krishnasamy

Sisters (Younger) : KANNAMMAL; PONNUTHOY

1891 Age 12

He entered into his father’s trade.


He used to hear Tamil Vaishnav religious Gurus talks on mythologies at his house, enjoying their hospitability. As a boy, he started questioning the contradictions and illusions in the fables of Hindu deities spread by the Aryan Race i.e. Brahmins for subjugating Dravidian Race.

Blossoming of rationalism and atheism slowly in the brain of this youth - Ramasamy.


He married NAGAMMAL, aged 13.

He reformed his orthodox wife and sowed rationalistic views in her mind.


He became the father of a female - child which expired within 5 months and thereafter he had no children.


He undertook “renunciation” of family because of the harsh reprimand by his father.

He went first to Vijayawada in Andhra State. Then he proceeded to Hyderabad and Kolkata.


He reached Kasi (Varanasi), a noted sacred town of Hindu pilgrimage on the bank of the River Ganges. There he could not get free meals easily at choultries which exclusively fed Brahmins forbidding other Hindu castes.

The eyes of Ramasamy looked at the letters carved at the frontal wall of the building. They revealed the truth that the choultry exclusively occupied by the highest caste viz., Brahmins, had been built only by a wealthy merchant of Dravidian Race from Tamil Nadu.

On returning to Erode - his father delegated all his trade rights to this second son and renamed his major commercial concern under the title: “E.V. Ramasamy Naicker Mandi”.


Besides being a well-known wealthy businessman in Erode Mr. E.V.R. entered into public life by rendering social services selflessly.

1905 Onwards

One noteworthy instance: Once the dreadful contagious disease plague attacked Erode. Hundreds of people died and thousands fled for saving their life. But this noble man did not desert his native town like other rich merchants. He himself carried the dead bodies on his back to the cremation ground.


Unyielding to stiff protest of orthodox familymembers, Periyar arranged the remarriage of his sister’s daughter who became a child widow at the age of 9.



He became the Chairman of Erode Municipality.

Periyar was made Honorary Magistrate by the British Government.

He held many honorary positions like the President, the Secretary, Vice-President etc., in various public institutions numbering 29 such posts


Mr.P.Varadharajulu Naidu and Mr.C.Rajagopalachariyar persuaded Periyar to join the National Congress party led by Mr. M.K. Gandhi. Resigning the Chairmanship of Erode Municipality, Periyar enrolled himself as member of that Congress party.


He ardently participated in the NonCo-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 defied the prohibitor order of section 144, promulgated at Erode for the first time and courted arrest.

Periyar trusted and accepted Mahatma Gandhi as his leader. So, as a true disciple he began to execute every word of Gandhi into deed.



The policy of Prohibition of Liquors was first conceived only at the house of Periyar.

Gandhi 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 groves, from which toddy was procured. 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.

Periyar became the President of Tamil - Nadu Congress Committee.

At the provincial conference of that party held at Tirupur, 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 evil caste and superstition.



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

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

They requested Periyar to come from Tamil Nadu to take up the leadership of Satyagraha. He led the agitation. Hence, he was arrested and sent to jail. In that case, he was sentenced twice to undergo imprisonment for six months for each term. The Satyagraha 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.

Periyar published a Tamil Weekly under the title “KudiArasu” edited by himself to spread the principles of SelfRespect for the awakening of the Dravidian.



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.


Periyar published an English magazine under the title “Revolt” on 711-1928.


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.

He visited many European Countries like Egypt, Greek, Turkey, Soviet Russia, Germany, England (Britain), Italy, Spain, France, Portugal etc.,

At Berlin, capital of Germany, Periyar visited several Socialist Associations and offices of Socialist magazines.

In Russia (formerly Soviet Union) his stay was extended for a lengthy period of three months because he was invited to address many workers’ meetings. Being the First Nation of Karl Marx’s Communism, established by the great leader Mr. Lenin, the former Soviet Union (Russia) captivated very much the heart of Periyar.


June 20 * In England (Britain) Periyar addressed a huge labourers’ public meeting with more than 50,000 people. He explained his principles on Rationalism as well as Socialism.

Nov. 11 * Returned to Erode after completing the European journey via Colombo, Capital of Ceylon (Srilanka).


May 11 * Because of the repression by the British Rule, ‘KudiArasu’ - Tamil Weekly was banned. Another magazine ‘Puratchi’ (meaning Revolution) was published by Periyar.

Dec 30 * • Periyar and his sister Kannammal were arrested and awarded imprisonment for an editorial in ‘KudiArasu’ weekly.


He brought out the Tamil weekly ‘Pagutharivu’ (Rationalism) on 12-1-1934.


From 13-1-1935 Periyar’s Reform of Alphabets in Tamil language was adopted in all the papers and books published by him.


In the conference held at Kanchipuram he arranged a resolution to be passed to oppose Hindi imposition.


Periyar published ‘Viduthalai’ as a Tamil Daily Newspaper from 1-1-1937 undertaking its ownership.

Having become the Prime Minister of the former composite Madras Province, Mr. C. RajagopalaAchariyar announced that Hindi would be made a compulsory subject in school curriculum.

Dec 26 * At Tiruchirappalli, ‘Tamils Conference’ was convened. There Periyar declared that to defeat the dominance of Hindi over Tamil and Dravidian race, the only solution would be ‘A separate Sovereign State’ ie., ‘Tamil Nadu for Tamils’.


In his book entitled as “The world to come” Periyar visualised many scientific inventions including the possibility of the “Test Tube Baby” which is now a reality!

The title “Periyar” was conferred on him by Tamil Nadu Women Conference held in Madras on 13-11-1938 under the presidentship of NEELAMBIGAI AMMAIYAAR daughter of MARAIMALAI ADIGAL, a veteran pure Tamil Scholar.

He toured North India where he met Dr. B.R. Ambedkar and Mohammed Ali Jinnah in Bombay. Mr. C.N. ANNADURAI (affectionately called as ‘Anna’), accompanied him.

When the Congress party Ministry of Mr. C. RajagopalaAchariar resigned Periyar was invited by Mr. Arthur Hope Governor of Madras to form alternative Ministry since he was elected the leader of the Justice Party. But to concentrate fully on Social Reformation only, he rejected that enviable political offer.


On 27-8-1944 the name of the Justice Party was changed as ‘Dravidar Kazhagam’ to signify purely as a social revolutionary movement for the emancipation of Dravidian race oppressed by Brahmins at the Provincial (special) Justice Party conference held at Salem and also not to contest elections and accept the titles given by British Govt.

1947 Aug

When the whole of India and the world were jubilant on the attainment of Indian “Independence” on 15-8-1947, Periyar boldly called it a ‘mourning’ day for Tamils with foresight. He called Independence of India was nothing but a ‘made over’ to Brahmins and North Indian Merchants (Baniyas).


The second Anti-Hindi Agitation started at Kumbakonam on 10-8-1948 on the directive of Periyar.


Periyar’s marriage with Mani Ammai was held just to guard his health as well as the Movement’s properties so that the Reformation movement would go on in future without stagnation.


Sensing the formidable opposition engineered by Periyar, Constitution of India was amended for the first time by the Nehru Govt. at the Centre. This was the first Amendment to the Indian Constitution. Ultimately sub clause (4), was added to the Article 15 to admit of the pro visions of Communal G.O. to preserve the rights and equal opportunities of Backward classes of India.


Periyar opposed the scheme of New Elementary education on the basis of the parents hereditary occupation, introduced by the then Chief-Minister Mr. C. Rajagopalachari (Rajaji).

Periyar and his followers erased with tar the Hindi-nameBoards in all Railway stations all over Tamil Nadu.


In order to condemn idolatry worship and to show to the world that there was no divine power in idols, he organised a campaign. His followers and himself broke the idol of PILLAIYAR (Vinayaga) at public places.


Periyar convened the Conference on Buddhism at Erode.

Periyar along with his wife and some friends visited Myanmar (Burma) and Malaysia. At Mandalay (Myanmar) he attended the World Buddhist Conference where he met Mr. MallalaSekara, a Buddhist Scholar and Dr. B.R. Ambedkar.

Dec * Periyar undertook his second tour to Malaysia and propagated his rationalistic principles in many places.


Against the caste system, another big agitation was started by Periyar. Brahmins used to inscribe the name in their HotelName-Boards as ‘Brahmin Hotel’ to spread the impression that Brahmins were superior caste. Periyar requested all his followers to erase the name ‘Brahmin’ in the Hotel Name Boards. Accordingly a campaign was started to erase the Brahmin-Name-Board in all Brahmin Hotels in Tamil Nadu. As a result of this agitation, the name ‘Brahmin’ in the hotelname-boards disappeared.

He was invited to address Minorities Conference at Lucknow (Capital of Utter Pradesh province).

The Ramayana, Epic of Aryans, was burnt all over Tamil Nadu as a mark of protest against cruel treatment of Dravidians by the Aryans in the Ramayana.


Periyar announced a Programme of agitation to enter the Sanctum Sanctorum of temples to eradicate the caste discrimination practised, according to which only Brahmins could become Archakas (Priests) and perform worship (poojas) in Sanskrit language only instead of Tamil.


The Tamil Bi-monthly, the “Unmai” (Truth) was first started at Tiruchirapalli by Periyar. First issue was released by Dr. K. Veeramani, then General Secretary of Dravidar Kazhagam.

The UNESCO Mandram, an international branch organisation of the United Nations, conferred on Periyar a glorious title, the citation of which read as “Periyar the prophet of New Age, Socrates of South East Asia, Father of the social Reform Movement, and Arch enemy of ignorance, superstitions, meaningless customs and baseless manners” - UNESCO 276-1970. The award was presented by the Union Education Minister Dr.Triguna Sen under the presidentship of Chief Minister Kalaignar M. Karunanidhi.

Periyar inaugurated a new forum, called the Rationalist Forum, a non-political social organisation, enlisting the Government and private Employees and also others who subscribe to the views of “Rationalism”.

A legislation was passed in the Tamil Nadu Legislative Assembly, enabling persons belonging to all castes to become Archakas (Priests) in Temples. Periyar demanded such a legislation, to abolish castes and to establish equality of persons irrespective of caste at all places.

Periyar inaugurated the English monthly, the “Modern Rationalist”, the need for which was keenly felt by English knowing Rationalists.

1972 Aug 13

At Cuddalore, the statue of Periyar was unveiled by the Chief Minister of Tamil Nadu, Hon. M. Karunanidhi. The Chairman of the Legislative Council Mr. C.P. Chitrarasu presided over the function.

1973 Sep 16, 17

Sep 16, 17 * Periyar happily participated in his 95th Birth-Day Celebrations. The Anna Dravida Munnetra Kazhagam (A.D.M.K.) General Secretary M.G. Ramachandran offered laurels and a purse to Periyar.

Dec 8, 9 * As his last agitational social service, Periyar convened the ‘Conference for Eradication of Social Degradation’ with extreme enthusiasm at PeriyarThidal, Chennai. Many historic resolutions were then passed. On the 2nd day of that conference, Periyarmade a clarion call to all Tamilians to strive hard for the abolition of casteism and social degradation imposed by Brahmins.

Dec 19 * At Thiyagaraya Nagar, Chennai - Periyar delivered his last but immortal speech (the Swansong) like an ever memorable dying declaration.

Dec 20 * Due to unbearable acute pain of Hernia disease - Periyar was admitted in the Government General Hospital in Chennai.

Dec 24 * putting billions of rationalists, Tamilians of Dravidian race and admirers all over the globe into unbearable agony with ocean of tears.

An official State mourning was announced by the ChiefMinisterKalaignar M. Karunanidhi and Gazette extraordinary was issued by the Govt. of Tamil Nadu.

Dec 25 * A state funeral with police honours was arranged at Madras. His body was kept in the Rajaji Hall for the public to pay their respects when dignitaries, his followers, friends, and a host of others assembled in millions. The funeral procession started in the evening and reached the PeriyarThidal, Chennai where his body was laid to rest.

Leaders like former Chief Minister Mr. K. Kamaraj and Kalaignar Karunanidhi were by the side of the body till the burial. A Govt. holiday was declared on 24-12-1973 by the State Govt of Tamil Nadu.

1974 Jan 6

After Periyar’s death Mrs. E.V.R. Maniammai headed this Social Revolutionary Movement (Dravidar Kazhagam) and lived upto 1978.


March 16 * Mrs. EVR Maniammai passed away.

March 17 * Then Mr. K. Veeramani, who was nominated as General Secretary by Periyar in 1960, continued as the Secretary General of the movement and still he carries the torch.

He has established numerous institutions as permanent Memorials to the Greatest Universal Rationalist Thinker PERIYAR E.V. RAMASAMY.

As an ardent disciple of that revolutionary leader in upholding his principles, Mr. K. Veeramani, the President of Dravidar Kazhagam has founded‘PERIYAR CENTRE’ in NEW DELHI, the capital of INDIA.

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